By Naeisha Rose
La Talaye is a popular catering and event design business in Rockland County, New York that garnered so much love by its clients that its owner Michelle Timothee, 47, a Port-au-Prince native, was encouraged to expand it into a reservation-only Caribbean cafe earlier this year.
The award-winning organic food chef will be one of five women that reside in Rockland County featured on the cover of Rivertown Magazine for their culinary expertise on Nov. 1.
Timothee came to the United States 21 years ago because her son had a medical condition, leaving behind her previous restaurant, the Munich Beer Garten, to focus on his health and later decided to stay because most have her family immigrated here.
She pursued a degree in both nursing and Hospitality Management, Tourism & Culinary Arts at Rockland Community College in upstate New York, but ultimately decided she was a people person and went the hospitality route.
La Talaye had its grand opening Feb. 8, 2019.
Haitian Times (HT): What inspired you to open an eatery in the United States?
Timothee: I did not initially plan to open up a cafe, I actually went back to my roots by working with a farmer’s market to get the ingredients for my catering business where you see all the local farmers with their organic and natural food. Opening up a space can be a lot of work.
HT: What led to the catering route and when did you open that business?
Timothee: I opened a catering business in 2008 because it was easier for me to pursue for myself and have enough time for my family, but with a restaurant, you have to be there every day.
HT:Why the name “La Talaye?” What connection does it have to your roots?
Timothee: My company is named after the city of Saint Michel de L’Atalaye, which is home to a lot of farms.
When I was little, I would watch my paternal aunt host receptions at her house, which she would cater for free.
Initially, she would be at the market to sell fabric for wedding dresses, then people would come to pick them up at her home and comment on how beautiful her home was and she would then volunteer to host the wedding reception there.
My maternal grandmother was also from L’Atalaye. I would visit her in the summer for a month, and she would get fresh food from her farm like tomatoes, corn, coconut, okra, sugar cane, eggplants, spinach and more to cook.
That is what La Talaye catering was about.
HT:How would you describe the design or look of the cafe?
Timothee: My cousin designed it to have this rustic Caribbean-countryside chic feel. The restaurant is decorated with paintings from Haiti and of Haiti too. My customers would post a picture on Instagram and say guess what I’m in Haiti and say that they feel like they are in the Caribbean.
HT: What kinds of dishes can customers expect?
Timothee: Soup Joumou (a squash soup)or as I sometimes call it Freedom Soup. I add a little bit of ginger to it and a little bit of turmeric, the healing spices, but it still has the same Haitian seasoning.
There is Bouillon Tet Kabrit (a goat and vegetable soup). I’ve kept the recipe the same as the real Haitian dish..
The Poisson Gros Sel (spicy red snapper with sea salt and jasmine rice) is my mom’s recipe. I haven’t touched that either.
We also have Tchaka (dried corn, white beans, butternut squash and spices), which is my grandmother’s recipe.
I also have Saleze, which is watercress with chiktay (codfish) or herring, fresh avocados, and vinaigrette, which is my dad’s favorite.
The catering menu is from all over the world and is international.
Despite being vegan, Timothee still knows how to make shrimp, beef, chicken, goat and rib dishes along with her more vegan options.
She also includes jerk, jalapeño, Greek and Asian sauces with her meal outside of the Haitian-specific meals.