Photo Credit: Photo credit: @afrocheflela / Instagram
This AfroChef Helps Travelers Learn About Authentic Jamaican Cuisine in South Florida
Nestled in the heart of South Florida, there’s a Black-woman-owned business ready to share authentic Jamaican cuisine with travelers from around the world. This inspiring culinary adventure was created by Jamaican-born entrepreneur Lela Morgan.
Island Cooking with AfroChef Lela offers a delicious meal for travelers to Fort Lauderdale. She wants every guest to see how food can transcend borders and bring people together in the most open and honest way. Morgan has a love for food that inspires guests to get comfortable in the kitchen and break bread with fellow travelers.
The inception of Lela’s Backyard Bistro was made out of necessity. After being laid off from her construction job, she turned her passion for cooking and love of hosting into a community dining experience.
“It started because I wanted the community to come to my backyard and eat good food, so I named it Lela’s Backyard Bistro,” she told Travel Noire.
Originally offering meal prep out of her kitchen, Morgan transitioned into a boutique catering and pop-up dining business. The journey took a positive turn with the introduction of Airbnb Experiences in 2018. She knew cooking could be an amazing way to combine her two loves of feeding the local community and sharing stories with travelers from around the world.
Beyond Borders: Cultural Exchange Through Cuisine
Her cooking class is not just about food. It’s about fostering connections and showcasing the richness of Jamaican and Caribbean culture. Guests gather around to learn the art of Jamaican cuisine through Jerk sauce, curried goat, roti, escovitch fish and more.
She hosts classes five to six days a week with 10 guests per class from around the world. The immersive experience has become more popular post-pandemic, as people look for new ways to experience life after lockdown.
“People from all different backgrounds come by, and everyone can enjoy breaking bread together,” Morgan said. “I love being able to broaden someone’s mind and remove the misconceptions that Jamaican food is always fiery or too spicy. I can show them how flavors can be adapted to suit a variety of palates and still speak to the heart and soul of its origin.”
Flavors of the Caribbean, Rooted in Sustainability
Morgan’s cooking class shows her dedication to the environment and the local community. With a commitment to sustainability, Island Cooking Class embraces locally sourced ingredients to minimize its carbon footprint. She also keeps things plastic-free and has minimal paper usage when possible. She echoes respect for nature well-known to the islands and uses reusable serve ware, dinnerware and flatware.
Morgan also ensures guests cut, dice and stew with fresh and natural produce from local farmer’s markets whenever possible. She loves feeling that connection between human beings and nature. The connection between food, nature, and culture is palpable as guests are educated on the origins of Caribbean cuisine.
“The naturalness of the Rastafarian diet is incredibly healthy,” Morgan said. “I believe it encapsulates my mission to share authentic cuisine with the common practices in the Rastafarian lifestyle.”
Some common practices in Jamaican cuisine is juicing fresh produce for easy digestion and not consuming fish longer than 12 inches. This is for both the health of the ecosystem, and their diet of eating algae and plankton with less risk of heavy metal toxins.
A Journey Through Global Tastes
Morgan’s own journeys around the globe has deeply influenced her culinary creations. These travel experiences find their way into her cooking classes, introducing guests to new ingredients, techniques and flavors. From New Orleans to Napa Valley, each place she traveled left its mark. She’s visited foodie spots around the United States. Her top three include New Orleans, San Francisco and a Napa Valley wine train.
In London, Morgan indulged in an array of Indian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern restaurants. Her favorite spot at the Duck and Waffle in Westminster. Inspired by the different fusions she tasted in those regions, she creates new recipes to share with each new class.
Building Connections Through The Weekend
While dinnertime classes remain a favorite, Morgan offers a tantalizing vegan Brunch experience that draws on traditional Jamaican cuisine. She always cooks with naturally sourced fats, like coconut and olive oils. These are best for the health of the guests and the flavor of the food.
“The Jamaican escovitch fish — a fried fish with vinegar pickled relish — is my mother’s recipe,” Morgan said. “It was a special treat when I was a child since my mom loved fish and didn’t eat meat. I was envious of other kids who ate a more variety of foods, but I’m so grateful to love it so much and share it with my classes.”
Whether visiting from Germany or the Southside of Chicago, this class gives strangers the chance to become friends. Guests unite through the simple, yet profound art of cooking and eating together. If planning a vacation to Fort Lauderdale, book the Island Cooking Class with AfroChef Lela as soon as possible.