As borders close and the world once again becomes a large place, there is a renewed interest in local. However, for the last 12 years Baidawi Assing of EatAhFood has championed the cause for a more indigenous diet. To do this the EatAhFood team has taken a decidedly international approach to Trinidad and Tobago’s palette, innovating on themes, educating audiences and exposing local producers to a wider audience. As we all settle into a new world without restaurants, and widely shared Naparima Girls Cookbook PDFs there’s an online resource that stands poised to reunite Trinis with their stoves and their own food culture, one video at a time.
Baidawi wears many hats, ‘the best way to describe what I do in a nutshell would be entrepreneur, content strategy and content creation”. As a founder of Detnator Entertainment Limited a company that “applies creative thinking as a business solution in marketing and advertising,” he has produced a string of hits across several creative genres, but if you’re a foodie it’s his ability to demystify cuisine that stands out.
“EatAhFood or the EAF Channel is a product of Detnator. It was the first food channel in Trinidad & Tobago and is dedicated to creating content that celebrates our local food industry,” Baidawi explains. “As a content creator I rely on my skills in writing, design, music, video and IT to tell stories,” he says succinctly but that belies the impact his crisply produced, insightful and overtly familiar productions have had on the local community.
Asked about what spurred him to make such an effort to publicize the work being done in kitchens and countless acres of soil he outlines a thorough examination of what keeps us fed, driven by his team’s own passion for the subject. “Our attempt wasn’t really aimed at change per se but more to share our enthusiasm about all the different aspects of local food,” Baidawi says “This meant showing how the farmers, institutions that develop agricultural studies, ingredients, and the cooks and chefs all play an integral role in the final product.”
In many ways Detnator’s EAF has raised the bar, and not just because of its ability to make our food accessible not just here but throughout the diaspora and beyond but also because of the team’s dedication to high production values. “Our commitment to always improving the content we produce also plays a significant role as we strive to deliver a product that is high quality and well produced that can seamlessly fit into the other food content being distributed online,” Baidawi says, adding “I believe that approach has helped people gain a deeper appreciation for our local cuisine and either consciously or subconsciously communicates the idea that what we have here is just as good as any food you will find in other places around the world.”
However the channel isn’t afraid to roll with the imperfections, which according to its principal serves as a further connector to the growing community tuning-in to EAF “I believe people sense the authenticity in what we do and this is what makes our content relatable and is also the reason why the channel continues to build a vibrant and engaged community that is overwhelmingly open and respectful in the way in which they engage with the content. “Our mission is to document our local food scene in a way that is always honest and authentic. This continues to mean that what we produce isn’t dead set on being perfect and will be inherently flawed to some degree, meaning that we’re always cognizant of our own experiences and biases and the role that plays in shaping the ethos of the brand and our voice.”
“To clarify, we are not the first local food website or YouTube channel but we took a different approach to content creation,” he continues “We set out to develop different types of programming for our channel to satisfy different appetites; for example, our series “Decanted” explores local fruits and how they inspire mixology, “Grown Home” takes a look at our farming industry and agri-business, “Simply Local” celebrates our local cuisine but also highlights other cuisines from a Trini perspective, “Out Here” highlights our local food scene from restaurants to food events, “Mmhmm” is a recipe based show that offers my unique perspective on cooking, “Chef Chat” profiles our local chefs and “Flame On” is a tongue in cheek approach to challenging food traditions and examining widely held practices as it pertains to food in T&T.
“Even though we began as a blog the idea evolved as we saw the need to run our platform like a media channel where we develop varying types of content, each with a specific purpose.”EAF was one of the first local entities to anticipate and react to the changes that the pandemic has made necessary for our survival the article “Pantry Essentials for Social Distancing & Quarantine Cooking” was an early cheat sheet that gave some guidance for what was to come. “I had to think about the things I need to stock up on for my personal consumption and I also needed to be frugal. I could only imagine that many people would be facing the same choices.” This guide lays out a sort of gastronomic doomsday prep “that would allow the individual to prepare a variety of great meals and get the maximum bang for their buck. It was also the catalyst for our “Quarantine Cooking” live sessions,” Baidawi says.
“Initially my approach was to rebrand our existing show line up “Mmhmm” and “Simply Local” adding the Quarantine Cooking tag to it so people would know that those particular episodes would have a slant towards cooking using the Pantry Essentials I outlined in the article. However, the day after I posted that article on our website, YouTube announced its #StayHome #WithMe campaign where they put a call out to content creators to do more live streams.” The streaming giant and EAF’s purposes aligned in a new era that promised to alienate mass numbers of people. “This was a brilliant campaign (by YouTube) because it spoke to the current situation of social distancing and encourages people who may be in isolation to engage with each other in a live setting and also gives the audience an opportunity to engage with the content creators as well.”
From that point onward Quarantine Cooking live streams has allowed the channel to stay in touch with some of its most ardent supporters and a new crop of chefs of varying ability. It’s mostly organised and advertised but as with other content creators it has allowed for a more organic relationship to develop between EAF and its audience. “Sometimes I might catch a vaps and just turn the camera on while making breakfast or late in the night when I’m raiding the fridge,” of course not everyone’s as seasoned as the host is, but the beauty of the interaction is that it cuts the formality and trepidation that may occur if you’ve subsisted on delivery pre-‘rona and makes the kitchen feel more accessible to the layman.
Baidawi realizes the opportunity seclusion presents “People are obeying the instructions of social distancing, isolation and quarantine now so there’s a lot of people spending more time online engaging with content. “The live streams are actually fun to do because it doesn’t feel like you’re just talking to a camera. I think in these times people want to feel connected and I’m glad we can use the channel to facilitate that.”
Article Written for Her Magazine, The Sunday Express by Jovan Ravello