Christmas in the life of a chef: Sarafina Edghill

Sarafina Edghill at work at the Marriott

Come Christmas Day, 24-year-old Sarafina Edghill will be found in the kitchen whipping up some of her fancy meals for her mom and brothers.

After all, as she puts it, her mother cooks often and Christmas is for her to relax and to be catered for. When you have a daughter who is a chef and one who also recently copped a coveted position at the Marriott Hotel, you can be sure the dishes will be more than fancy.

Edghill has taken over her mom’s kitchen during the festive season for more than three years and it is something she eagerly looks forward to at this time of the year.

“Cooking is what I love to do… Cooking is my therapy,” the young chef said in a recent interview with the Sunday Stabroek.

And so it stands to reason that it is not only during the festive season that she is found in the kitchen. Her mother has had many days off from kitchen and can look forward to many more.

“I am always in the kitchen. For me, every day is like Christmas because I always want to try something fancy and new. It is not that I would wait until Christmas to eat pepperpot or fancy food, it is like an everyday something for me and my family,” she added with a small laughter.

She related that while at Christmas time she would have other family members over and she would whip up a cooking storm in the kitchen, this is something that can also happen at any given day during the year.

“It happens throughout the year we would cook and call over the family,” she said.

But there is still that special emphasis on Christmas day, she admitted, and during the year she would start looking for new menus to try and thinking about how she can tease the taste buds of her family members.

Asked what was on the menu day after tomorrow, Edghill said she was not sure. No doubt she wants to keep it a secret and when this was said to her she laughed, revealing the truth of it in fluttering eyelids.

She elected to share though that pepperpot and homemade bread will be part of the day’s menu, items that will feature on Guyanese tables come Tuesday.

She did share, however, how a usual Christmas Day goes for her.

“I would wake up and go under the Christmas tree and spend like an hour under the tree opening gifts [she gets a lot gifts] then I would go freshen up and spend like the next three to four hours in the kitchen,” she shared.

And depending on the menu, she would cook her dishes simultaneously but there are times when some will only be half cooked until closer to dinner time; it is the menu that decides the order of things.

“I am responsible for planning the menu. Mommy would say, ‘well I ain’t cooking the big chef would cook’ and my brothers would look to me for the food,” she shared.

Ten years

The journey to where she is today has not been an easy one but Edghill shared that she always knew she wanted to cook. She spent some ten years at the Carnegie School of Home Economics doing various courses and she finally graduated last month with a catering and hospitality certificate. She was on work attachment at the Marriott and has since been hired as a permanent chef.

“It is like a dream come true. I would not have expected that I would be working there. I go there to dine but I would never thought I would have been in the kitchen preparing for guests,” was how she described being hired.

While she had hoped to get a job, Edghill said she did not want to be overconfident and so she bided her time and did her best on the attachment and the dedication paid off.

She is not uncomfortable with the shifts she works, hours in the kitchen are nothing new to her once the guests are satisfied and happy.

Asked how she got into cooking, Edghill knew it started from the time she was a little girl.

“… I was always in the kitchen behind my mom, my godmother and my aunts,” she explained and when she started doing Food and Nutrition in school there was no looking back. She entered Carnegie right out of high school.

“I just wanted to be different and unique in the field, cooking and making people happy and making them wanting to eat more,” the young woman said adding, that her mother also loves cooking and roti and curry is her favourite dish to make.

She described some parts of her journey as being tough as she has not always received the support she needed especially when she decided to start her cupcake business.

“It has been challenging but I always overcome the challenges and I am proud of who I am today,” she said.

She said getting support “from my own” was the biggest challenge in the initial stages of her business. It has been some eight years since she has been making cupcakes and cakes and the business is doing well. She hosts an annual cupcake sale day and this year she made some 29 different flavours of cupcakes. She baked over 1,000 cupcakes and they all sold out; she had to continue baking because the orders kept coming in.

For the festive season, she has already received many orders for cakes and so apart from being in the kitchen on Christmas Day she will be spending many more hours and days filling those orders.

Describing her childhood, Edghill said that even though her mother and father were not together, they have both been instrumental in her upbringing and made the extra effort to ensure her childhood was a happy one. She spent some of her formative years in Kurupung, Region Eight, and while she left as a child she recalled that she spent many of the school holidays in the community. She has not returned for the last ten years and Plaisance has now become her home village.

When she is not cooking, Edghill could at one time be found modelling and more recently she has taken to acting, encouraged by her aunt Desiree Edghill. She was part of the recent production of the Flame and the Ribbon.

Most of her spare time is found catering. While she also tries to do fun things, trying new menus is more important for the young chef and her family members are very happy since they are her taste testers.

Sushi is one of the things she is now trying, ably assisted by Chefs Rohan and Simone.

Looking ahead, Edghill hopes to own her own restaurant or bakery in another three years, she confidently believes she has what it takes.

 

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