While staying at The Dreamcatcher Guesthouse, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jerome, a native to San Juan and chef at The Dreamcatcher Guesthouse who found his way to vegan and vegetarian cooking through the Rastafarian movement in Puerto Rico, and talk to him about conscious cooking so that I could share is experience and words of wisdom with the LFB community. Keep scrolling to check out the interview below:
LFB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Chef Jerome: I am Puerto Rican, born and raised here in San Juan. I have always been near the beach and music – reggae music mostly. I have also always been an adventurer. I got into vegan and vegetarian food mainly through being part of the Rastafarian movement – I am a musician as well and play reggae music.
Rastas are mostly natural and vegan, so that was one of the main things that influenced me toward this lifestyle. My passion for music, surfing, skateboarding – all of this complements what I do in the kitchen. My background was actually more that of a musician than a chef but somehow it ended up all coming together and music somehow brought me to experience real, tasty Caribbean and Jamaican vegan food that really expanded my knowledge about the vegan lifestyle and cuisine.
In 2005, I started selling fruit shakes at a place that played reggae music every Saturday. I then saw that I had a talent for food and that there was also a market for conscious eating. After that, I started cooking at activities, festivals, did catering, sold food around the island in baskets, and worked as a private chef. I then I had a food truck, which I was working at a year ago.
LFB:How did you end up at The Dreamcatcher?
Chef Jerome: When I closed my food truck, the previous chef who was a friend of mine and worked at The Dreamcatcher needed help and brought me here.
LFB: And do you enjoy working here?
Chef Jerome: Yes, it is a privilege and an incredible experience!
LFB: What excites you the most about cooking vegan and vegetarian food?
Chef Jerome: Okay so let’s start with the beginning. I mainly got into this lifestyle when I changed my perception and became more aware and conscious about the environment and the sad reality of how food is treated and how we get fed.
Part of what excites me about vegan food is that I am really cooking something that I would eat myself. I don’t really cook anything that I myself would not eat because more than just the presentation of the food itself is the passion to cook food that heals you, gives you the medicine and the nutrients that you need, and makes you feel good physically but also makes you feel good emotionally and leaves you with a clean conscience.
So I think it’s a part of the whole idea of living more clean and conscious. It is really a plate of food that is the root of how we want to be and how we want to feel. So if you want to treat yourself nicely, you have to cook nice, fresh, and healthy food.
It is all about bringing the physical, mental, and spiritual together.
LFB: Definitely! And for you is it more of an environmental and spiritual thing, or is there also an aspect of animal rights that is behind your choice to cook vegan and vegetarian food?
Chef Jerome: It’s all the aspects combined. I did not become a vegetarian just for one reason, but for a sense of wholeness – to be connected with creation and life in all aspects. It’s a balance because everything is connected. You cannot just want to eat healthy for health reasons and ignore being mindful and respectful of all living things.
But I am also conscious that everyone has different needs – what may be food for some people may not be food for others. I respect that. There are people that eat animals, and they have their reasons, there are fisherman whose livelihood depend on their profession, so I cannot say that eating fish is bad but it comes down to your intentions and the way you source what you eat, whether it is an animal product or grown. So for me it’s the intention and the origin of that food that is the most important – whether it is an animal product or not.
LFB: Yes, the vegetarian and the vegan movement is a great thing, but sometimes people loose sight of why they are doing it and you get people that can become very judgemental of others and their choices, so I think one of the really important things to remember if you are a vegan or vegetarian is that we all have different circumstances. I would also like to know your opinion on cost: with healthy eating it is a privilege to have the wealth to afford both the food itself and the time to create it. There are many people who cannot afford this privileged lifestyle. What do you think about that?
Chef Jerome: It is a privilege, and it does sadly look like this kind of healthy lifestyle is easier to access when you are in a wealthier position, but at the same time you do not have to be rich in money to get what you need, because the earth gives you what you need.
If you want to eat healthy, the earth is there for free to give back to you – it you treat it with love it will give you back what you need in return. But still, it is as privilege to have the right to choose local, healthy food. But I think it should be a right for every nation to demand real, fresh, local, and organic produce.
We also forget to be mindful sometimes, and just want to eat whatever we want to eat because it is accessible to us in a store, but there is nothing more that your body will love than food that is both local and in season. You do not have to be rich and wealthy to get this food – you can grow your own food and have the best quality food that you can have.
LFB: So would you suggest those who cannot afford expensive organic food from supermarkets to grow their own in their gardens?
Chef Jerome: Yes, that should be the idea. Everyone should have their own garden in their house even if it is a small plant of tomatoes or a big tree of fruit. This will make a change in you and your family. The earth also tends to can give you so much than you yourself need, so you can share this food with others, which is a beautiful thing.
LFB: Thank you so much, Jerome! In closing, is there anything else that you would like to add?
Chef Jerome: I try to bring my soul to the food because that is what creates a real experience. Food is not just about cooking fresh but about bringing flavors and ingredients together. It is a manifestation of life itself. You have to be grateful for and open to the process of preparing and cooking food and the fact that you are getting the opportunity to eat healthy food.
So there you have it! I really hope you enjoyed my interview with Jerome! If you would like to follow Jerome on social media, be sure to give him a follow on his instagram account, chefjeromepr and feel free to keep up with The Dreamcatcher Guesthouse on their official instagram account as well for more photos of delicious food and their stunning Guesthouse.
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