Celebrity Chef Ron Duprat sat down with Haitian Chef Stephan Durand, who was trained at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University. Durand, who is the first chef in his family, started his cooking career in the Air Force and worked his way from there offering his services to corporate clients and other establishments. The two chefs sat down for a quick chat about Haitian cuisine.
RD:For our readers who never had Haitian food, how would you describe it?
Haitian food takes its roots from Africa and the Indians that ruled the land. However being an island that has had a number of visitors, we also have influences from France and Lebanon just to name a few. Although we fall in the category of Creole food, similar to the cuisine of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Louisiana; we are very unique in our approach to food although we have many similarities.
Some Haitian food is similar to African cuisine. For example, our tomtom, a dish made with breadfruit and our calalou,and lalo, a dish made from jute leaves is simialr to food staples fin Senegal.
RD:What spices do you use to add a Haitian flare to your dishes?
I use ingredients like djondjon, scotch bonnet, thyme and other local ingredients.
I love the fact that I come from such an amazing culture which such diversity. The food and flavors coming out of Haiti are amazing. I hope to continue my work in bringing the flavors of Haiti to the rest of the world.
RD:When did you acquire a passion for the culinary arts? Who inspired you to start cooking?
I think I always had a passion for food, but the passion for cooking came at around 13 when I realized I enjoyed being behind the stove and cooking for my family. I think growing up in Haiti, the best gatherings were always around food, so early on I found myself roaming around the kitchen.
RD:Who was the first person you were proud to cook for?
Wow great question, there are many, but one my proudest moments is cooking for the Air Force Chief of Staff 4 star general. I was awarded the coin of excellence.
RD:What’s your favorite dish to make?
One of my favorite dishes to make is Lame Veritable and Hareng Saure.
RD:With a growing tourism sector in Haiti, where are some great places to dine?
Well one of the best places where you will find the most restaurants is Petion-Ville, however if you want the real Haitian experience, you should visit Parc Historique De la Canne a Sucre – Relais de Chateaublond , La Coquille and Le Pti Creux.
RD:What do you suggest everyone to taste when visiting the country?
If you are going to visit a country, you should experience everything local.
RD:How has you went back to Haiti affected your career? Actually it has done a lot for my career both personally and Internationally. It grew me a lot as a chef, working in an environment where you have very little teaches you how to think outside the box. I am a better chef today because of this experience.
RD:What was life like in Haiti when you were growing up?
I enjoyed growing up in Haiti. My parents made sure I went to a great school and that I got to travel as much as possible. I have friends still today that I had when I was 5 years old. After moving to the U.S. I came back 20 years later after the earthquake; although a difficult time, I really enjoyed my time back in Haiti. I love and enjoyed just traveling to different places and learning what Haiti is really all about.
RD:What are you doing now? Are you working on any special projects?
Well I have quite a few things in the pipeline. I am working on starting a new company and I am aback in the U.S. working. I am working on Taste of Haiti among some of my projects.