By Onz Chery
It was a sight that people of Haitian origin are well familiar with – too familiar – a plate of white rice covered with black beans topped by a chicken’s thigh. Celebrity chef Gregory Gourdet ate that dish countless amount of times growing up in a Haitian household.
But this time, on May 7, 2020, the dish was sitting on a table in front of six people who weren’t Haitian. On top of that, it wasn’t for a simple event, it was for one of the most known cooking shows in the world, Top Chef.
Although Gourdet grew up around Haitian food, he had only been cooking it for about five years. But there he was standing in front of six non-Haitian food experts to feed it to them at one of the biggest stages of his career.
Tom Colicchio, a chef of Italian origin who’s been the head judge of every season of Top Chef, planted his fork in the meat. He chewed slowly with a thinking face. One of the few times, he ate Haitian food before that was at a street fair in Florida.
After eating the meal and reading the Haitian menu Gourdet put up together – the challenge of that episode was to create a restaurant – something clicked in Colicchio’s mind. He wanted to go to Haiti.
Mission accomplished. Gourdet graciously showed Haitian food to the world and in a sense Haiti itself. And as the judges were munching on food that was very foreign to them while receptively listening to Gourdet, a man who looked different than them talk about it, the celebrity chef displayed one of the solutions for the ongoing racial tension: food.
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