A Bahamian chef is spotlighting Caribbean cuisine into a fun experience. Chef Kermit Raymond Mackey, who also goes by Chef Ray and Chef Kermit, recently launched “Island Flares” — a pop-up weekend brunch and dinner series at Colors Restaurant in the Lower East Side. Featuring dozens of island inspired dishes and fusions, the inspiration behind the event is to give food lovers an opportunity to explore the different culinary dishes from the Caribbean as a stepping stool to learning more about their respective countries of origin.
“Our motto is promoting tourism through food and flavor, and what we want to do is reach the masses by advertising and educating them about Caribbean food,” said Mackey.
He says it’s been his mission to establish a food series where he can present a variety of West Indian food to people with either a vast, limited, or a non-existent Caribbean food experience. After conducting several test runs around the city, he decided to bring the event to Colors Restaurant to introduce the cuisine to newcomers.
“I’ve been in the business for 18 years now and it has always been my dream to do this,” he said. “We’ve been doing it across the boroughs and the response has been okay but not great, so we took the chance to step out in New York and make this accessible to everybody.”
Every weekend since Sept. 15, Mackey and his team prepares all types of Caribbean appetizers, meals, and beverages. His catering company, Chef Ray’s Taste of the Islands Incorporated, fills in the void of the city not having any Bahamian restaurants, but he says he enjoys being able to showcase all of the cuisines of the Caribbean islands.
“We didn’t want to just brand the Bahamas because we have a diverse group of islands in the Caribbean, and each one has its own flavor,” said Mackey. “We just add our twist to it by using different ingredients, and more or less, provide an upscale dining experience — we want people to have a warm and friendly experience.”
A few dishes served at the series are inspired by notable fishes from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and more. They include jerk chicken made with guava and served with vegetables, a pepper shrimp dish served with grits and fried okra, and a highly popular Bahamian seafood dish — conch.
The shelled snail is very popular in Bahamian cuisine, as well as in Haiti, where it’s commonly known as lambi. In the former country, it is tenderized and deep fried into conch fritters. But Mackey is giving this chewy meat an Asian kick.
“We are doing a conch stir-fry with an Asian twist, and it’ll be sweet and sour flavors,” he said.
A few beverages he included into the series are exotic fruit cocktails, as well as Caribbean beers, sangrias, and lemonades.
The series will take a brief hiatus before re-launching in November, as Mackey and his team make several changes to the menu and their overall mission. One of his long-term goals is to get a restaurant up and running in the near future, and he wants to use the series as a catalyst to promoting his culinary style.
“We really want to promote and help build our clientele so when we launch a brick and mortar restaurant — we have an existing clientele base,” he said.
Mackey encourages all foodies to explore his series because he prides himself on his patience to learn and experiment with new things, and hopes he makes an impactful encounter for newfound Caribbean food lovers.
“Besides offering a unique culinary experience, we want to give people something different when it comes to food,” he said. “Our flavor is unique to most Caribbean restaurants, and people will experience the hardwork we put into it because we don’t take shortcuts. If we can’t make something from scratch we don’t do it. We want it fresh and give people exactly what you pay for.”
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