While roommates in university, Melissa Maestre, remembers Dalise Bernett’s corn soup filling the hallways with its delicious aroma. Much different from the western cream corn, Caribbean corn soup is a savory beef or vegetable broth based soup. Friends and fellow classmates who also lived in residence would follow their nose and knock on Bernett’s door to find out what was cooking.
“When she cooked, she would make enough for everyone,” Maestre says.
Corn soup is often made for Caribbean parties or functions.
“Everybody goes crazy for it – my friends tell me it’s better than the corn soup man at the Soca or Die fetes,” Bernett says.
Bernett’s cooking draws from her Jamaican and Trinidadian background and her well-rounded knowledge of traditional Caribbean flavours.
With the population of ethnic cultures increasing in Durham Region, cities like Oshawa have an opportunity to try many types of foods, including West Indian cuisine. Stew chicken, curry goat, rice and peas, salt fish and fried bakes have found an audience with a growing appetite for foods from all over the world.
Bernett says she has always been fascinated with what goes on in the kitchen. Growing up, she says her house was filled with smells from corn soup, jerk chicken, and on Sundays, traditional West Indian meals like ackee and salt fish.
“In the back of my mind I always wanted to do something with food,” says Bernett.
Bernett founded Blxssful Bites, a made-to-order catering company, in 2014.
Through familiar and foreign flavours, packaged in miniature portions, Bernett sells both north American and Caribbean-inspired meals to her community.
From spaghetti and meatballs to jerk pork and of course dessert favourites like black cake and current rolls, Bernett’s unique touch is in the bite-sized variations of traditional western and Trinidadian food.
“I like to do bite size – take something and make it smaller. It’s kind of a craft thing of mine,” Bernett says.
“I like appetizers. I’m more into small meals than big meals. I’m trying to work on spaghetti and meatball cups. It’s been trial and error so far.”
As for desserts, Bernett says cheesecake is her weakness. “I love doing cheesecake.”
But cheesecake isn’t the only type of cake Bernett is familiar experimenting with. Recently she has been taking a traditional Caribbean dessert called black cake, and rolling it up into cake pops.
“Black cake a is a dark spiced, fruit cake made with rum or wine. My granny uses port wine, it makes it look black essentially,” says Bernett.
Traditional cake pops call for fondant and cake crumbles rolled into a ball. The ingredients are then dipped in chocolate. Bernett says she had to find a way to make the cake light enough to hold on the stick. Black cake is so dense Bernett says she didn’t know how it was going to hold. “I made the batter, I put it in the cake pop machine, and then I used liquid fondant. That’s how I got it to stick,” she explains.
The black cake pops were a hit.
Bernett says she is an avid user of social media to help spread word of her business in the local community of Bowmanville, where she is set up.
On the business side of things, Leshaun Bernett, Dalise’s younger brother, lends a helping hand. When asked if he thought if there was a market for West Indian flavours in Durham Region he says, yes.
“People are always looking for something new – something different to try,” Leshaun says.
So one blissful bite at a time Dalise Bernett shares her culture’s favourite foods in hopes to show people how big flavour can come in all shapes and sizes.
“I just want people to bite into something that’s out of the norm– think outside of the box,” says Dalise.“Small meals can be fun.”