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Rawlston Williams: The Rebel Chef

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Praise the Lord — and pass the island bowl!

A new dine-and-dash restaurant in Crown Heights has customers’s mouths watering and minds thinking of a higher calling with every dish served.

At former theology student and St. Vincent and the Grenadines native Rawlston Williams new Caribbean fusion restaurant, The Food Sermon on 355 Rogers Avenue between Sullivan Place and Montgomery Street in Crown Heights provides offerings with the hope the customer will be satisfied.

“If you look at the menu, we actually call it offerrings. The whole thing is that you’re making something with your grubby hands and it is just as intimate a situation as huband and wife; we’re going to take our offerings and hope to God that you like it,” Williams said.

Williams chose to leave his studies in theology in part because he felt he could not meet the demands of the ministry. Typical character traits associated with a pastor include public speaking of which he is actually afraid to do. His own personal reflections also steered him in the direction of choosing to cook, and use his food to satisfy his ideas of a “higher calling.”

“There are many reasons why I didn’t finished my studies in theology. I’m deathly afraid of speaking in public. How can I preach the word and I’m terrified? Another reason is, can I live what I’m preaching? Can I be true to the ideals not only in the short-run but the long run? It’s a constant struggle between deciphering whether the call on me was to lead others or was it a call to a higher moral way of living. Because those questions were present it gave me a lot of pause,” he said.

Raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, his hours of operation adhere to that of his faith — closed by sunset on Friday to reopen doors again for regular service on Sunday. The small menu encompasses dishes reminiscent of all islands in the Caribbean such as roti. What might serve as a surprise are the full, gourmet salads listed. His childhood diet which comprised eating mostly homegrown vegetables, homemade bread and steamed or roasted fruits including his favorite breadfruit, influences his imaginative menu.

“I didn’t grow up eating Caribbean food. The only religious influence is in reference to having vegetarian options. I must say it’s not a new-age healthy Caribbean food; the island bowl is really what I want to do and not being brought up traditionally eating Caribbean food I have an outsider’s point of view. I love the idea of having just flavors from the islands but doing it differently,” he said.

During his short eight weeks of being open, Williams has learned to accept and weigh the opinions of others in regards to the preparation of his food and restaurant design. Upon entering The Food Sermon, one might not know it is serving Caribbean cusine until peeking at the menu, which boasts imaginative spinoffs from your standard jerk chicken with rice and peas plate.

“I’ve had people walk in and walk right out. I’ve had others walk in and say ‘you’re doing this for the white people.’ People come in here and they ask ‘you making Jamaican food? You making Trini?’ or whatever and I’m like, what does that mean? As I’ve been told, you go to a Trinidadian spot you expect to get more of a roti thing, you go to a Jamaican spot you expect more of a jerk — but those are just small items. You still have your goat, your curries, your ground stew — it’s all essentially the same thing,” he said.

Taking each day in stride, Williams is learning from what he likes to call his ‘restaurant-ette daily.’ Balancing when to consider expanding his small staff, considering adding a delivery service and more, he is excited to expand his thoughtful menu in hopes that your belly will hum with a pleased amen.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aolivier@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @All3Y_B.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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