Dame du Jour: Latoya Hunter

By Maria Isabella

Can you imagine being a little girl, going into your own back yard, and plucking fresh, tropical fruits right off your tree? That’s exactly what Latoya did…in her birthplace of Jamaica!

Her happy early-childhood memories also include listening to her mother recount her own childhood growing up on a farm on a Caribbean island, and sitting with her grandmother on their veranda, helping her with the fresh produce she just brought home from the market.

After moving to Cleveland when she was seven years old, Latoya’s parents opened up a Caribbean restaurant and grocery, located in North Randall. Helping out there gave her a good base for when she eventually joined Dame Crickett Karson’s boutique PR agency, LiefKarson, which focused on food and restaurants.

Latoya is now the assistant director of media relations, social media and digital integration for the City of Cleveland. In addition to managing communications for the mayor’s office, she oversees public relations for the West Side Market, one of Cleveland’s most iconic food destinations.

“I’m a firm believer in educating people locally and nationally about ‘food the way it was meant to be’,” says Latoya. “My career provides an opportunity to merge my culinary passions with my love for this great city.”

As for how she heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier, she says it was from Crickett. “She invited me to a meeting, and I absolutely fell in love with everything for which the organization stands. I especially enjoy being surrounded by women who are just as passionate as I am about good food.”

Learn more about Latoya as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

What food always reminds you of home? Avocados.

Of all the places you’ve traveled, where did you have the best food or wine? Maybe I’m biased, but I think Caribbean food is the best. It’s such a mix of so many flavors and cultures. The food is bold and colorful, just like the people.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen & Bar in Mount Vernon, New York. He appeared on a national cooking contest show and beat one of the world’s greatest chefs. I would invite him to try my uncle’s recipe for jerk chicken – he would never be the same!

What is your favorite food blog? Cook Like a Jamaican. It has really easy, authentic, Caribbean fusion recipes.

Describe your perfect meal. My perfect meal would be a nice grilled red snapper with Jamaican red beans and rice.

What’s your favorite snack?
Chocolate chip cookies.

Do you have a signature dish? Curry Chicken.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner?
Pumpkin seasoned rice with bok choy.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
Hand mixer, juicer, and pressure cooker.

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge?
Goat meat.