Ricardo Campbell, more commonly known Chef Ricardo, is one of the most popular Caribbean chefs on YouTube. His three channels have gained him over 1.5million subscribers. A Christian, Chef Ricardo is gearing up for the release of his new book, Chef Ricardo’s Secret Recipes to Success: From Poverty to Purpose, where he tells the story of growing up in poverty in Jamaica; achieving his dream to work as a chef; moving to England; and becoming one of the most successful Jamaicans on the YouTube platform. The book also includes some of his favourite recipes. Chef Ricardo spoke with Keep The Faith about his life and faith, and shares words of hope for those seeking to achieve success and live a purposeful life.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): Congratulations on the launch of your new book, Chef Ricardo’s Secret Recipes to Success. What inspired you to write your memoir?CHEF RICARDO (CR): The book is based in an interview I did for an online channel about my life. The journalist who interviewed me suggested that the contents of the interview would make a good book. So, based on that, I decided to write a book about my life. It’s a guide for all those seeking to understand the mindset, skills and work required to live your dreams.
KTF: What would you say are the three key things you would like people to take away after reading your book?
CR: Firstly, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make it in this world. Secondly, following the guidance of the wise elders in your family can help you to succeed and, thirdly, persistence is an essential ingredient for success. You have to carve out your path and head towards your goal in order to succeed.
KTF: It’s your work as a YouTuber that has set you on the path to success. When and what made you decide to launch your own YouTube channel?
CR: I started my YouTube channel in 2013 because a young man suggested it to me, but I only started to take it seriously in 2016 and have never looked back.
KTF: Do you remember recording your very first YouTube video? Did you have professional equipment when you started, and if not, what did you use to record your very first video? What kind of response did you get?
CR: I remember recording my first YouTube video; it was a video for barbecue chicken and rice. I got a videographer friend of mine to film it for me. I used my phone to film at first and then I bought a small video camera. I eventually moved on to more sophisticated equipment.
KTF: You are one of just a handful if not the only Jamaican chef on YouTube to have over a million subscribers. How do you feel about reaching that landmark number of subscribers, and why do you think your channel is so popular?
CR: I have to give God thanks for reaching this amazing milestone. I was given a Silver YouTube Creator Award button for reaching 100,000 subscribers and I’ve now received a Gold YouTube button for reaching 1 million subscribers. I think my channel is popular because I do lots of original Jamaican recipes but also lots of healthy recipes that are beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.
KTF: It’s said that people — including people from the Caribbean — don’t like to cook anymore. Do you think your channel is encouraging people to enjoy cooking (again) and if so, how is it doing so?
CR: My recipes are simple and straightforward and this encourages people to cook more. I do Meat-free Monday, lots of tasty Jamaican recipes, as well as weight-loss recipes and smoothies.
KTF: Why do you think it’s good for people to cook?
CR: Cooking is cheaper, healthier, and a life skill. Cooking adds to an activity to keep us active each day.
KTF: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood: where you were born; how many siblings you have; what you enjoyed doing as a child; and what role faith played in your upbringing?
CR: I was born in Jamaica and grew up in St Ann Parish. I have three brothers and one sister. As a child I loved cycling and, of course, cooking. I learned to cook from my grandmother; she taught me a lot of great cooking skills and recipes. Faith has played a major role in my life. God has guided and protected me and to Him I give glory, honour and praise.
KTF: What inspired you to become a Christian and what role has faith played in your life and work?
CR: I grew up in the church and I have always had a relationship with God. When I was living in Jamaica, I had a dream one night that someone dressed in full white appeared and said to me: “Young man, I call upon you when you are strong.” That had a real impression on me.
KTF: What made you decide to become a chef and what’s your favourite food?
CR: I became a chef because I love cooking. My grandmother always had me in the kitchen with her and I love how she cooked. I grew up surrounded by a vibrant hospitality industry, offering some of the best food in the Caribbean. As I worked my way up the ranks in restaurants, I was influenced by my family’s home-cooking style, and my love for the culinary arts steadily grew into a passion.
Growing up as a young boy I had a keen interest in cooking. I spent a lot of time watching my elders cook many different dishes, especially my grandmother and -father who loved cooking. My interest grew into a passion after leaving school.
I applied to be a kitchen assistant, doing basic kitchen duties like preparing vegetables. Due to my eagerness, I was given the opportunity to help prepare simple dishes, like ackee and saltfish, rice and peas, and brown stew chicken.
After a short period, I was making these dishes independently. I stayed at this restaurant for two years and moved on to work in one of the top hotel resorts where I excelled and progressed into becoming a range chef. My duties included cooking, being a temperature control officer, and ensuring sure that the presentation of the dishes was maintained to a high standard. I remained in this employment for ten years, during which time I also attended college for two years and obtained a chef certificate. Further to this I did a two-year NVQ Level 2 Professional Chef Qualification.
My favourite foods are stew chicken with rice and peas and fried plantain; sweet potato pudding, and herbal teas like cerasee tea, ginger tea, fever grass and mint tea.
KTF: You have been a resident in Britain for many years now. What inspired you to leave sunny Jamaica to come and live in England?
CR: I got an opportunity to come to England and I took it. I knew that coming to England would give me lots of opportunities to learn and grow. I made many contacts when I began working in Jamaica and, during this time, I realised there were more opportunities to study in London. Although this wasn’t an easy decision, I made the move to London!
Since my arrival I have worked in many London restaurants which has given me the opportunity to improve my skills as a chef, and to make the most of my many new experiences. I quickly got a permanent job in an after-school project, and stayed there for six months until a chef position became available in an international residential private school.
I worked there for two years, and during this time I obtained certificates in the catering industry. Before leaving, in my last few months, I started to work on setting up my own business. In autumn 2010, I opened up a small restaurant/takeaway called Chef Ricardo’s Caribbean Diner. Although this was an extremely difficult time, due to the pressures of opening and establishing one’s own business, my customers and family gave me a lot of encouragement and support which made me very enthusiastic. During this time, I thought about producing my own sauces. I began to experiment, eventually inventing my own sauce recipes, ie. Caribbean Sunshine BBQ, Caribbean Jerk, Brown Stew, and Curry Jerk. Due to personal reasons and family commitments the restaurant ceased trading. I have used this as an opportunity to work hard at developing my other business ideas.
KTF: It’s obvious you’ve made a success of your life with cooking. What new ambitions do you have left?
CR: I want to continue to cook and always improve upon what I am doing. I also want to have a closer walk with God.
KTF: How would you encourage someone with the same story as yours, who has been raised in poverty and has a desire to succeed?
CR: Firstly, you have to put your trust in God; believe in yourself; and be humble and positive. Help others, focus on your goals and be consistent in your efforts to succeed.
KTF: Lastly, what message of hope do you have for Keep The Faith readers?
CR: Trust and believe in God. Keep praying. Once you put your trust in God, He will do the rest.