Chef David Destinoble is one of the more prominent Haitian chefs in the industry. As one of the founders of the Haitian Culinary Alliance, Destinoble has been influential in bring Haitian cuisine to the forefront of the culinary arts industry. The Johnson and Wales trained chef boasts an impressive resume that includes personal chef to former Haitian prime minister, Laurent Lamothe. Although he left Haiti at a young age, he was fortunate enough to have parents who kept him grounded in Haitian culture and food.
Celebrity Chef Ron Duprat sat down with Destinoble for a discussion on his background and Haitian cuisine.
RD: What spices do you use to add a Haitian flare to your dishes?
When you are from the Caribbean, bold flavors are part of your DNA. My foods reflect sun, water and the land of the Caribbean. I use a combinations of fresh and dry spices and herbs to make what I came to call “Ave Maria or the Blessing epis.” This common marinate mixture is one you’ll find in old jars in someone’s fridge. Its used on and in everything, including meat, fish, chicken and pork. This is what separates Haitian foods from the rest of the Caribbean’s.
RD: For our readers who never had Haitian food, how would you describe it?
Haitian food is very different; Africans might relate more to it than African Americans. It’s a combination of seasoned, slow food, cooked with lots of love. It’s bold in flavors and at times can be spicy. Nonetheless it is very enjoyable.
Haitian foods is what African Americans would call soul or home-cooked food. There’s a lot of similarities in the manner of cooking and the flavors and ingredients used. After all, we are all Africans, the only thing that separates us is geographical location.
When did you acquire a passion for the culinary arts? Who inspired you to start cooking?
My passion started very early. You probably hear a lot of chefs saying that, however in my case it certainIy was the case. I was in the kitchen since I was 4 or 5 years old because my mother Marie was a legendary cook in our town, where she ran her own little restaurant. A friend of the family, who was a bread maker started teaching me very early. The women who worked around my mother, and my mother were all inspiration.She could create a feast out of nothing.
My family was filled with chefs. Although they were not professionally trained, they were all good enough cooks. Cooking was part of our curriculum at home, Fok ou anpran fe manje – you need to learn how to cook – is that my mom would say, and so we all did
What’s your favorite dish to make?
I have many but my number one is a regional dish from the Artibonite call “lalo.” It is a stew of a type of spinach found only in Haiti, served with meat and sometimes seafood.
Who was the first person you were proud to cook for?
My biggest fan always has been my mother Marie. One day I cooked for her and she gave me a thumbs up; that actual gave me the confidence to go out and cook for the world. If my mom thinks I’m good, then I must be good.
With a growing tourism sector in Haiti, where are some great places to dine?
We are very excited about the progress Haiti has made. It’s also very good to see people thinking once again about viewing Haiti has a tourist destination. Although there are many fine places in Haiti to eat , we are still lacking in services and customer priorities. One thing I find crazy is the lack of decent Haitian restaurants in Haiti. You’ll find all types of cuisines, but few places that’s truly selling authentic Haitian food.
I suggest visitors try something new when in Haiti. For example, a nice goat stew,ragout, or lambi griye
What do you suggest everyone to taste when visiting the country?
Try something different, like a nice goat stew,ragout, lambi griye and many other.I always tell people the best way to enjoy true Haitian foods is to be a guest at someone’s home.
How has you went back to Haiti affected your career?
It has in more positive ways than negatives, now I get to be home and promoting my country. I’m doing the things that I really enjoy doing.
What are you doing now? Are you working on any special projects?
Right now I’m farming, working with an organization World Central Kitchen to give young men and women a place to learn and grow to future chefs. I’m also finishing my book.