Angela Lawrence was just minding her own business, videotaping her mother’s Jamaican recipes and posting them to YouTube for a family project when serendipity struck.
Turns out, there are a lot of people on the Internet who want to cook like a Jamaican, and so “Cook Like a Jamaican,” starring Lawrence and her mother Fay DeLeon, was born.
The year was 2007, when the Toronto native wanted to learn her Jamaican-born mom’s recipes but didn’t want to be bothered with writing them down, so she picked up a camera and taught herself how to shoot video. A few years later, she decided to edit the videos and post them online for a family legacy project and a YouTube channel for family to watch, when outside users took notice. Viewership and subscriptions went through the roof and two YouTube stars were born.
“There was a recipe that like took off – and it’s still definitely in the top three popular recipes,” Lawrence explains, “which is a video for brown stew chicken. And it was that video and the video for fried dumplings, which are both very traditional standards. … And so what we found was those two really took off, like they just started to get a lot of views. I know that the brown stew chicken now has well over a million views and that was where I was like, ‘Wow!’ And then it just became a fun thing to do.”
Eleven years later, “Cook Like a Jamaican,” with its 115 videos (and counting), is approaching 100,000 subscribers with views well into the millions. On the channel, Fay shows viewers how to make such varied and traditional Jamaican staples as pepper shrimp, Caribbean pineapple chicken, baked plantains, curry tripe and beans, curry beef, macaroni pie (the Jamaican version of macaroni and cheese), fried banana chips and Lawrence’s favorite, ackee (a fruit similar to apple) and saltfish.
“It’s Jamaica’s national dish,” she says, “but it’s like one of my favorite things to eat. It’s really quite easy to make if you have all the right ingredients. But yeah, I would say that’s comfort food for me – Jamaican comfort food.”
Viewers looking to re-create the recipes they see prepared on the YouTube channel can find them on its sister website, cooklikeajamaican.com.