By Ralph ‘Onz’ Chery
It was curiosity that brought Haitian native, Ivan Dorvil, in front of a cooking pot as a kid. It fascinated him. Although his mother wasn’t thrilled about him cooking, he started learning from her. Later on, he turned his passion into his career—into a very successful career.
Chef Ivan is one of the most famous Haitian chefs. He has cooked for celebrities like Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Patti LaBelle, Lionel Richie and many more. The Cap-Haitien native has also been on various cooking shows as Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, he was the champion of Chopped’s 11th season. He opened his restaurant, Ivan’s Cookhouse in North Miami Beach, Florida in 2015.
Apr. 7, 2020, was a very special day for Chef Ivan. On this day he had the privilege to cook for a group of people he calls soldiers, the healthcare workers at Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach, Florida.
Chef Ivan understands how important it is to help the healthcare workers during their battle against COVID-19, a battle that could cost them their lives. Plus, Jackson North is a hospital that Chef Ivan holds very dear to his heart. It’s in his community and his father was once a patient there. Chef Ivan had a chat with Haitian Times about providing food to the healthcare workers at Jackson North Medical Center.
Can you tell us about how you were introduced to cooking?
I started cooking at a very early age. Cooking wasn’t something that, you know, my mom wanted me to do. By curiosity pretty much I started learning cooking from my mom, but it wasn’t something they wanted me to do.
What inspired you to turn cooking into a career?
I love food, I’m very passionate about food. Food is something that brings people together. I believe that’s the way I can communicate best, through food. The best language that I speak is food. I love food.
Can you tell us about your cooking career so far?
With my career, I’m doing very well. I’ve been around the globe through cooking. I’ve been on numerous T.V. shows. I do a lot of challenge shows. I’ve been the judge at a lot of cooking shows. I’ve been featured in a lot of publications from papers in New York to Miami Herald, numerous, numerous publications. I’ve been doing very well in my career, but I feel like my success is about passing it on to the next generation, to carry it on. That’s what I feel like my success would be.
You cooked for multiple celebrities. Which one of them was the most memorable to you?
Lionel Richie was very memorable. I remember, one time, he was at the dinner table, after I finished cooking for them, he said “Chef, you are one us. You’re a celebrity. Chef, you’re a celebrity, you didn’t know that, did you?” [Chef Ivan laughed] I said: “I don’t know what you mean. Okay.” To me, I was just someone cooking for those guys, that’s it. Then they took pictures and stuff like that. It was very memorable.
What inspired you to cook for the healthcare workers at Jackson North Medical Center?
Jackson is very close to my heart. It’s in my community pretty much. I’ve always been very close to Jackson Hospital since when I was a very young man. My dad was there for a long period of time. I saw how the nurses took care of my dad. There were people who were very, very, very helpful to my dad there, to the community as a whole. I feel like it’s my time to step up, to do the best I can do, to make sure they have a good meal during the coronavirus. I feel like they’re the first soldiers I see in front of the battle, they’re the ones fighting for us, you know, to keep us alive. It’s my duty to do something for them. I’m going to continue to do it until I cannot do it no more.
As said, you cooked for various celebrities, cooking for healthcare workers during this painful time is different. What did it feel like?
It’s different but it’s very good to do what you have to do for your people. You have to remember where you came from, it doesn’t matter how high you’ve reached. To be in my world of success it’s not about what I’ve become but where I’m from. I did a lot of things for Haiti. I fed a lot of kids in the streets of Haiti. I worked with homeless people in the downtown area of Miami. To me, I feel like it’s giving back the best way that I know how. It’s always good to support your community, to help people who are in need. That’s the best away you could give yourself an award. To me, my fulfillment is by giving back. That’s what I feel.
Each of them has their own ways of qualification, each of them has their own way of satisfaction. Of course, working with celebrities gives you a platform. But to cook for the homeless, the needy, it gives you a different feeling of gratitude, a different high. You understand what I mean? A high from what you do for people, that’s what I mean by that.
Do you know anyone personally who’s a healthcare worker?
Yes, I have family members, friends, a girlfriend. At least a good 15 to 20 folks close to my family that I know work in the healthcare system.
Did you get to meet any of the healthcare workers at Jackson North Medical Center?
I talked to about 20 to 30 of them. They were very satisfied. They enjoyed the meal. A lot of them posted about how happy they were on social media, how professional the whole thing was. That was very nice.
Do you have any words to express how thankful you are for healthcare workers?
I’m very thankful. They’re the ones who are saving lives. They’re in war. They’re fighting an enemy—an invisible enemy—something you can’t even see to fight. Therefore, it’s making it worse for them. When you’re on a battlefield if you can see the enemy, you can shoot back, but this enemy they cannot see it, so it’s even worse for them. This is why the whole community, the whole world has to see how difficult it is for the nurses for the doctors all the people in the healthcare system. They have to see how they’re fighting to save lives, how tough it is for them. They need our support, they need our gratitude.
You cooked braised okra turkey, smoked collar-green, and djon-djon rice. Why did you choose those dishes?
With djon-djon rice, those nurses and doctors didn’t know what it is, so I just wanted them to have a taste of it. Turkey and okra are very healthy. They were very tasty and healthy. And again, I’m a chef, I cook different styles of cuisine, different flavors. I’m very good at what I do. I can create any flavor, anything that I want. But that day I chose to do turkey, djon-djon rice, collar-green and okra for them because it was very different and tasty, it was good for them. It also was very filling. When you’re on the battlefield you have to eat food that will keep you going.
There’s a lot of other chefs right now who are cooking for healthcare workers. What message do you want to send to them?
Let’s keep those soldiers—I call them soldiers—let’s keep them going. Feed them, do whatever, support them and be there for them. They’re there for us so we have to be there for them.
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