What brought you to the South?
I was working in Miami and had the opportunity to be on Top Chef: New Orleans. Once I got here, I fell in love and knew I wanted to make it my home.
How do the Southern flavors of your new home and the Caribbean flavors of your heritage influence you today?
New Orleans and the Caribbean are quite similar—both are heavily influenced by spices and flavors. Southern regional cooking and Caribbean ingredients go hand in hand and create such a harmony. For instance, I do conch croquettes with pickled pineapple tartar sauce, spiced pig ears, jerk corn—all represent the flavors and ingredients of the South and the Caribbean.
Do you see any similarities in the ingredients or cooking styles of the American South and the Caribbean?
Absolutely—Creole cuisine, for instance, is influenced by West African culture—as is the Caribbean. Spices, cala, and other dishes are common in both places.
Many people think of Caribbean food as spicy. Is that the case?
Caribbean food has spice, but that’s not to say it’s spicy. Allspice, cloves, nutmeg, curry, cinnamon—they’re all common spices, but aren’t necessarily spicy in terms of heat. Of course, we do have our great chiles and peppers though!
What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate Caribbean flavors into Southern dishes and vice versa?
Caribbean and Southern flavors work beautifully together. I do a Crispy Dirty Rice Arancini and serve it with a Sour Orange Mojo. Black drum is a great Gulf fish used in a lot of Southern cooking, so I often do a jerk version of the fish.