Caribbean cuisine is more than rice and peas

Chef Shorne Benjamin is a St. Lucian native who wants to Caribbean cuisine to the next level.
Photo by Megan Swann

There’s more to Caribbean cuisine than just rice and peas. St. Lucian born Chef Shorne Benjamin is going against the popular rice grains to prove just that with his modern take on Caribbean-infused dishes.

Benjamin takes Caribbean food to the next level adopting a new style he calls “new age Caribbean.”

According to Benjamin, “I’ve seen how Caribbean cuisine hasn’t been taken to the next level in terms of it still being in the old times of grandmother and grandfather cooking. I’m just more or less taking a contemporary approach to it where I’m infusing world flavors with a Caribbean flare.”

Influenced by his Caribbean heritage, Benjamin’s career leaped forward following his graduation from the French Culinary Institute, New York. Since completing the prestigious program, he has worked alongside Master Chef Jean George at ABC Restaurant, James Jermyn at Maloney & Porcelli, and many other institutions that have influenced his diverse cooking style.

His modern approach relies on respecting the food so that he can play with flavors — old and new — to represent his Caribbean heritage with a twist.

Like an artist who plays with various paints to achieve a certain color, Benjamin swaps out usual ingredients such as rice, a Caribbean staple, for Farrell — a similar grain.

“I have a unique style,” he explained. “Instead of using rice I would use Farrell, which is a healthier grain. I will surprise you with that.”

Also in his surprise arsenal is his take on oxtail, which he braises, and serves with an eggplant ragout.

Heading into 2016, Benjamin will return home to St. Lucia where he will participate in a guest chef series at Cap Maison Hotel from Jan. 15–17.

“This hotel invites chefs of different calibers to come down to the hotel, like a culinary tour. It just so happen that I’m actually from St. Lucia and from what I’ve been doing they figured I’d be a good candidate to kick off the new series,” he said.

His audience will be a mix of native St. Lucians and those visiting – a crowd he much enjoys serving as the reactions vary but all conclude that the food is good.

“I’ve done events where it’s strictly a Caucasian crowd and you bring a Caribbean flare to them and they’re like wow. You find that the natives will look at it and say this is not traditional but they conform to it and can respect it,” he said.

Chef Benjamin’s cuisine can be tasted through his personal catering company, Shorculinaire.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.

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