By Elizabeth Hazard
Award-winning chef Alain Lemaire might best be known for appearing on the Food Network’s hit show Cutthroat Kitchen, but his accomplishments in the kitchen far exceed any television show appearance. The Port-Au-Prince native was one of many other chefs to cook the first all Haitian dinner at the James Beard House. In 2017 he was named the Young Professional Top 20 under 40 Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida. That same year he was awarded the Legacy MIA Top 40 under 40 black professionals in South Florida Legacy Magazine. He represented Haiti at the Global Traditional Cuisine Gathering. He participates in numerous taste events in the country, co-produces the first television food battle show in Haiti and contributes to an online magazine focused on Haitian chefs and cuisine. These are just a few of LeMaire’s accomplishments. We chatted with the chef himself to find out more about what inspires him and what drives his love for Haitian cooking.
HT: Do you remember the first dish you ever made?
AL: Yes, I do! It was bulgur wheat (blé) with creole sauce. I can recall it vividly because it was one of those dishes I used to observe the cook at the house prepare and that I would go and try to replicate. And also, I really loved it back then and I still do.
HT: If you could cook a meal for one person, living or deceased, who would your ideal guest be?
AL: I think if I had the chance to cook for someone, it would’ve been my dad. There were occasions where he had my food before but so much has happened in recent years that I would love to have him as a guest now. It would be the “thank you” and “I love you” kind of meal where I pull out all the stops to make sure he knows that he is appreciated.
HT: who is your harshest critic when it comes to your cooking?
AL: I am my harshest critic when it comes to my cooking. I put so much pressure on myself because of my passion for excellence and perfection, that my colleagues think I’m crazy at times. I love when my colleagues also give me their advice because it helps me improve in areas I need to improve in. .
HT: What is your favorite food?
AL: Oh wow! I don’t think there’s a specific food that I like because I love food in general. But, if there are cuisines that I love, I can say: Caribbean, Asian (Korean, Thai, Chinese…), Italian, Greek.
HT: How has your Haitian ancestry made an impact on your career and your life?
AL: It has played a lot in my career and life. I was born and raised in Haiti and didn’t move permanently to the states until after high school. So, I was pretty well aware of our culture and cuisine. Being that I had the experience firsthand is why I made it my goal to showcase our cuisine and culture through my work.
HT: What is your favorite spot in Haiti?
AL: I have a few spots that I enjoy. Food and nightlife: La Reserve, Asu, Adik. Touristic: Decameron, the South (Jacmel, Cayes, Faucher).
HT: What is the one honor that you are most proud of?
AL: If I was to choose just one it would be being an inductee into the 2017 Class of the “Top 20 under 40 Young Professional” by the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida.
HT: Would you do Cutthroat Kitchen again?
AL: YES in a heartbeat.