Our Community - Carolyn Castillo - "Combining culture with cuisine in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 27            July 12, 2001

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Carolyn Castillo

The combination of ethnic cultures found in Belize has made it unique in comparison to the outside world. This intermixing has also created many new tastes when it comes to local Belizean cuisine. San Pedro boasts a wide array of cuisine in its restaurants, but one has not tasted anything yet, if they have not tried some of Belize's delectable ethnic dishes. This week the San Pedro Sun presents a Belizean who is proud of her roots and culture, and shares this with others through her fine cooking - Mrs. Carolyn Castillo.

    Carolyn was born to Dalita and Florentino Castillo (both deceased) in the land where the drums beat melodiously and cassava is a staple food - Dangriga Town. She spent part of her childhood in this southern region of Belize along with her four bothers. Carolyn attended Holy Ghost Elementary School in Dangriga Town and then moved to Belmopan where she was enrolled in the Belmopan Comprehensive High School for four years.

    In 1987, after the birth of her two children, Aldicia Castillo (25) and Richard McKoy (24), Carolyn moved to San Pedro Town in search of a better life for her family. Carolyn first worked as a waitress for one of the Chinese restaurants for a period of two years. With this experience under her belt, and having learned various cooking techniques from her mother, Carolyn was convinced she wanted to be in the restaurant business. Carolyn did not have to wait long before she was given the opportunity to work as a chef for Carol Thorpe's restaurant in the Spindrift Hotel. She jumped at the chance and put her kitchen skills to the test for the next two years. After the business was sold, Carolyn chose to stay on as an assistant cook working with the new owners for a period of two and a half years. Throughout this time, she gained a wealth of experience and culinary skills. As a result she also developed her own original, typically native dishes for the menu. In 1994, the business was sold again, this time to Mary Ellen Stevens. Well-known for its exquisite Italian dishes, Little Italy Restaurant retained Carolyn's services as well. This restaurant gave her new insight into this type of cuisine. Little Italy became one of the most frequented restaurants on the island and introduced Carolyn's famous Belizean rice and beans. After eight long years, Little Italy closed, but by this time, Carolyn felt she was well prepared and ready to commence her own business.

    In February of 2000, Carolyn opened Car's Diner on Angel Coral Street. From this cozy restaurant, she has delighted hundreds of people who are looking for tasty recipes with a local flair. Ms. Car, as she is known by most of her customers, does all the cooking herself, and manages the diner assisted by her two children and partner, Rick Munnings. Dining at Car's is like having a home-cooked meal prepared by your own mother. She offers daily lunch and dinner specials at affordable prices, which has gained her a large number of regular clients. Some of Car's special dishes include the always-popular Belizean rice and beans, cow foot soup, ox tail, stew beef with okra, split peas and pig tail, and a variety of succulent seafood treats. Of course, a meal would not be complete without one of the fresh juices served by Carolyn's friendly staff.

    Ms. Car also keeps busy by experimenting with new dishes and practicing different cooking techniques in order to surprise her clients. When she is not in the kitchen, she enjoys spending time with her grandson Ray J. Carolyn is a "people-person" who enjoys socializing, whether she is at work or a town function. "I want to take this opportunity to thank my regular customers who have embraced my cooking and business. I believe that what has made my restaurant successful is that I cook from the heart. When I cook, I do it as if I were cooking for my own family. I guess that is why I get a lot of repeat customers. We have all become one big happy family," commented Ms. Car. 

    Ms. Car has been welcomed with open arms by the community of San Pedro. She has worked hard to get where she is today and is proud to be called a "self-made woman." With her very special personality and her delectable dishes Ms. Car provides the fine example of culture and the "taste of the Caribbean" that is savored in "Our Community."

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