It was just last week, executive chef and founder at Jaffa Restaurant at the Queen's Park Oval Joe Brown held a fundraiser on the Divali holiday to raise funds for a fellow cyclist who was injured.
Yesterday, only four days later Brown, 63, died at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex while receiving treatment for critical injuries, sustained in an early morning accident, which also claimed the life of British expat and BP employee Joanna Banks, who was killed at the scene.
Around 7 am yesterday, a motorist ploughed into a group of cyclists from the Slipstream Cycling Club, of which Brown and Banks were a part. The accident occurred along the shoulder of the eastbound lane of the Beetham Highway.
Eyewitnesses described it as a scene out of a movie, seeing bikes, blood, and bodies everywhere.
As news travelled of the champion chef's death, tributes began to pour in from those in the hospitality industry, restaurant owners, fellow chefs, and the business community.
In a release, The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (Amcham T&T) extended its condolences to the families of both Brown and Banks and wrote: “Joe was one of a kind and helped Amcham T&T a lot over the years. Many of you would be regular Jaffa patrons and who could forget the awesome goat burgers that he created and served at our 25th anniversary party last year.”
Close friend and founder of Restaurant Week, Shira Mohammed told Sunday Guardian, Brown was not just a fantastic chef but also an incredible athlete. When it came to cycling she said he had done possibly some of the hardest riding races anyone could think about internationally, and to think that he passed at the hands of an accident was just quite upsetting.
“The restaurant fraternity has lost a fantastic chef, his absence would definitely be felt. He was instrumental in quite a few initiatives, even before restaurant week began,” she said.
Mohammed explained Brown was part of the Fantastic Six—a similar culinary event to that of restaurant week, where some of the top restaurants in T&T got together and hosted it.
“He was very instrumental in all things regarding food and dining in Trinidad. Other than just being a great chef he was instrumental in encouraging people to dine out and stirring up the culture of dining out.”
'Grand father of fine dining'
Chef Jason Peru worked closely with Brown, first becoming acquainted with him when he was hired by Brown as a junior chef to work at his restaurant at the time, called Solimar. Peru then subsequently worked again with Brown at Jaffa for a period of time.
Describing Brown as the “grand father” of fine dining in T&T, Peru said Brown was responsible for placing T&T on the culinary map in terms of international cuisine.
“This all started when Brown was the executive chef at the La Boucan Restaurant at Hilton Trinidad, in the late 80s into 90s. Because of his contribution there, he really elevated fine dining in T&T. Before that chefs and fine dining wasn't seen as anything too popular in T&T. And I think because of that contribution he made, people began to realise that Joe was certainly a pioneer at what he did,” Peru says.
He also particularly remembered Brown for two things, being a “bull-headed” chef, fixed in his ways when it came to his culinary craft and skill; and the chef who never wasted food.
“I remember him bringing in a ninety-five pound fish one day and he deboned it. After he deboned it, he took the meat from it and he said, 'I'm going to make fish sticks out of this.' After that he said, 'I want you to scrape every last piece of fish flesh off the bones, we're going to make fish cakes with it.' And when you finish with the bones, we're going to make stock (fish stock), and when you're finished, we're going to take the head and boil it down and make soup—nothing should ever go to waste.'
“We would always rotate and try to maximise profits as best as we could by using every last bit of ingredients in the restaurant and displaying it in a creative manner,” Peru recalled.
He said a big part of the success of Brown's restaurants happened because he was always right there cooking.
Fellow chef Edward Inglefield said although he did not have a lot of experience with Brown, he recalls when he was a student at the T&T Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), he did a small function with Brown as part of his internship. “Just being in the industry, Brown's name would always come up as one of the sort of 'stand out chefs.'
“It is a huge loss, he is one of the big personalities in the industry for sure, and a real stalwart so it is a real loss for the industry.”
Arrive Alive dedicates Nov 18 observance to chef
At this year's commemoration of World Day of Remembrance for road traffic victims, which will be celebrated on November 18, 2018, Arrive Alive president Sharon Inglefield said the day's observance would be dedicated to Brown.
Brown who entered the culinary business in 1971, was English born but a true “Trini” at heart. Having earned his qualifications from City & Guilds and German Meisterprüfung.
He gained his stripes in cuisine travelling the globe performing his culinary skill. His “sweet hand” took him to Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Lesotho, Kenya, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea to name a few countries.
For mastering international standards in culinary arts, Brown was awarded several notable accolades including gold medals at shows in Frankfurt, Basel, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Puerto Rico, also earning the “Chef of the Year title in Trinidad in 2006. Brown also served in the capacity of a coach, with the Trinidad National Culinary Team from 2000-2006. He was also a member of the Gastronomy Cordon Noir.
Sinanan: Policy for riders safety coming
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said on November 15, 2018, a note would be going to Cabinet for a policy that the ministry had been working on for the last year, for the cycling fraternity.
When contacted for comment on the issue of safety regarding cyclists using the nation's roads, Sinanan said the policy would have come out of several consultations held with various cycling clubs since 2017.
Asked what would the policy entail, although Sinanan could not go into much detail, he did indicate it would address how cyclists are treated on the nation's roads and would propose laws in regard to their protection.
“So, we are doing a policy which will go to Cabinet on Thursday for approval and then it would go to Parliament and this would give them (cyclists) that right that they deserve to have when they use the roads,” said Sinanan.
He pointed out the country's highways not having been initially designed for cyclists but said the policy would rectify this.
If the proposed policy is favoured, Sinanan said this would mean some amendments would be made to the Road Traffic Act.
He called on the cycling fraternity to remain hopeful and promised protection would come.