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Haiti’s best chefs prepare dinner

New York-based Haitian chef Melissa Francois will be one of the nine chefs preparing gourmet Haitian dishes.
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In honor of Haitian heritage month, the Haitian Culinary Alliance is hosting a dinner at the James Beard House in the West Village on May 18. “All-Stars of Haiti” will be the first time Haitian cuisine will be featured at the venue, which also happens to be on a Haitian flag day. The idea came into fruition after Chef Stephan Berrouet-Durand, founder and president of the culinary group, wanted to bring together some of Haiti’s top chefs to celebrate the commemorative month.

“I approached James Beard House about doing a Haitian dinner, and it just so happened that one of the dates available was May 18th, which is in a month that celebrates Haitian culture and a big symbolic date in Haitian history,” said Berrouet-Durand. “I saw it as a perfect opportunity to really show the best of Haitian gastronomy.”

Nine chefs including Durand will prepare a variety of gourmet selections on popular Haitian dishes — some that are commonly known, and others that will be introductory, he added.

“We are doing our version of legume, bleu, and mayi moulin, but the chefs are going to make extremely creative takes on traditional cuisine,” said Berrouet-Durand. “You will see stuff that is very familiar, but it will certainly not be your typical Haitian dish or food that you can find at a restaurant in Brooklyn or Miami.”

He says the meals served in eateries in predominantly Haitian communities in the states only cover a small portion of what Haitian cuisine has to offer, and this dinner will showcase a wider collection of what it can be.

“The mom and pop restaurants — that is only the surface of what Haitian cuisine is about,” he said. “What people typically see in Haitian cuisine is very selective, but there are foods that come from different regions and cities, and a lot of dishes that Haiti has in repertoire that has never made it to a table.”

On the menu will be seven different full course meals, including appetizers, and dessert. The dinner will be somewhat of an introduction into Haitian cooking for rookies, and even lovers of Haitian cuisine.

“It will definitely be a new experience, especially for people who are gourmets and have seen the evolution of Haitian cuisine,” he said.

Many of the chefs are based stateside, Canada, or in Haiti, and each are skilled professionals that aim to bring Haiti’s culinary offerings into the food world. They include Ron Duprat, Melissa Francois, Natacha Gomez, Gregory Gourdet, Jouvens Jean, Alain Lemaire, Lucmann Pierre, and Paul Harry Toussaint. As some of the most popular chefs of Haitian origin, Berrouet-Durand says it’s a great chance for them to display their talents.

“Our vision is to continue as chefs to continue to promote Haitian gastronomy,” he said. “I’m very proud that all of these chefs have dedicated themselves to the craft and showcase Haiti in a different way. And to have it on flag day is timely.”

Berrouet-Durand says he is thrilled to have organized this dinner because his goal is to highlight Haitian culture through its food, along with the people who are currently working at promoting that.

“Most importantly, having the opportunity for Haitian chefs to grace the James Beard House for the first time is huge, and we want to be able to showcase Haiti in a different way,” he said. “Haitian cuisine is not like any other, and one of the best things we have to offer is our cuisine and our culture because we are unique in the Caribbean.”

“All-Stars of Haiti” at James Beard House [167 W. 12th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues in West Village, (212) 675-4984, www.jamesbeard.org] May 18, 7–10 pm. $175.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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