Interview: Allyson Hennessy & Roses Hezekiah on Veni Mangé

Veni Mangé is a creole restaurant in Woodbrook, Trinidad founded by sisters Roses Hezekiah and the late Allyson Hennessy (a Cordon Bleu chef). They shared their thoughts with Discover T&T on Trinidad cuisine and their favourite dishes

Behind the scenes of Veni Mangé

Q: How would you describe the cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago?

A: Very cosmopolitan, as we are influenced by African, Indian, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, French, British etc.

Q: What are the main ingredients used in our local cuisine?

A: Rice and dumplings are staples. Chicken is the most consumed meat, but the secret of our food is the combination of herbs and spices used to season before cooking as well as the addition of coconut milk and a little sugar.

Q: What is creole food?

A: A creole is a Caribbean native descended from foreign lands … so the food would be an interpretation of their recipes. Our pelau is a combination of pilaf and paella, our coo-coo is fu fu from Africa.

Q: What is the most popular dish at Veni Mangé?

A: Stewed oxtails with dumplings. This is a casserole made with the oxtail well seasoned with garlic, onions, chives, celery, chadon beni and other spices, and served with Trini dumplings – which are not soft like ones from England, they are firm.

Q: What has been the secret to Veni Mangé’s longevity?

A: Consistency in quality and value for money and insistence that everything is done with love and as near perfect as possible. As owners, we are always there to meet and greet the guests who feel at home when they return. The décor is warm and tropical, creating the ambience of a typical Caribbean home.

Q: Which of your dishes would you recommend to a first-time visitor to T&T?

A: Callaloo soup and any of our creole dishes. We always say if you like beef eat beef, if you like fish, eat fish, everything is Veni Mangé food.

Q: Which food should visitors never leave these shores without tasting?

A: A bowl of callaloo or stew from Veni Mangé, bake-and-shark, or our local roti.

Q: What’s your local guilty pleasure when it comes to food?

A: Roses is vegetarian (for which Veni Mangé caters), and loves her fried tofu cutlets in tamarind sauce and almost any tropical fruit. Allyson’s is coo coo with callalloo and steamed red snapper in coconut sauce.

Editor’s Note (May 2011):

Allyson Hennessy died suddenly on 11 May at the age of 63. She was a vibrant, inimitable figure on Trinidad & Tobago’s cultural lanscape. She will be deeply missed by all whose lives she touched, both in a private capacity and through her public life and work. We wish her family, colleagues and loved ones every peace and comfort in this difficult time.

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