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A Jamaican-American Chef Shows Us the Transforming Power of the Dinner Party

By: Isaac Yuan

DeVonn Francis is the grandson of Jamaican immigrants who held parties in their basements for weddings, birthdays, games, and/or “parties just to have parties.” His talent for cooking started when he cooked next to his mom, pulling ingredients from a Caribbean-style pantry, and worked for his father at a Jamaican restaurant in Virginia.

So, if you want food for a 16-person gathering, Francis is the guy for the job. He can whip up rum cakes, pork collars, crispy rice, and more with ease. That was exactly what he did on one occasion when he cooked for his friends and others in downtown Los Angeles.

DeVonn Francis founded the studio Yardy World as a way to connect with his Jamaican heritage. He says it's also to “expand the story of what Caribbean food is.” Francis thinks that restaurants mostly don’t feel like a safe place to eat for queer people, people with different gender identity expressions, or women. “Hospitality to me means you get to prioritize care for everyone in the system,” not just the guest.

“This cabbage is incredible,” a consumer said. “It’s light and fresh and invigorating. Francis says his goal is to make people understand: “How are we continuing Caribbean food and heritage versus being mired in its history? It’s ‘I know jerk chicken’ or ‘I know oxtail,’ but they don’t really understand the complexity of the culture. How can every recipe push that along further?”

Source: Los Angeles Times

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