• Rachele Viard

Chef Stephan Berrouet - Passionate about putting Haiti’s Gastronomy on the Global Culinary Map

Updated: Jan 23

Chef Stephan Durand Berrouet, dedicated his 20 year career in the culinary world to promoting Haitian cuisine, its spices, flavors, and variety. Though for the most part like Haiti’s contribution to Caribbean gastronomy he has flown under the radar. Though if you ask him that suits him just fine because he isn’t one for fanfare or the spotlight.

Photo provided by Chef Stephan

Chef Stephan is also chairman and president of the Haitian Culinary Alliance which comprises other notable young dynamic chefs in the industry to promote and share Haitian and Caribbean cuisine internationally. Here is a bit more from my discussion with the busy chef for Caribbean Essence.

CE: How would describe Haitian cuisine to someone who has yet to try it?

CS: A Super, super cultural experience. Haitian Cuisine starts with the influence of the Tainos, although they were wiped out by colonialism before the Atlantic Slave Trade. In addition, the African experience: Benin, Senegal, Cameroun, Nigeria, and Guinea, mixed with both the Spanish first and the French after.

After Haiti's independence, many immigrants took refuge on the island nation including Syrians, Lebanese, Italians, Polish, and Germans also put their mark on the cuisine. The most interesting thing about Haiti, is that depending on the region or province, you will discover completely different dishes and flavors.

CE: As of recently, with different Caribbean chefs competing and appearing on different Food Network and Cooking Chanel competition, would you say there has been a popularization of cuisine from the Caribbean?

CS: I think Caribbean Cuisine as a whole, with Chefs like, Digby Stridiron from the Virgin Islands, Chef Irie Sinclair from Jamaica, Chef Shorne Benjamin from St Thomas and many others are giving life to the cuisine as a whole. Caribbean cuisine is no longer put into a small box as Jamaican Food or Jerk Chicken, it’s so much more than that and these chefs are leading the way for their different cuisine to be part of the conversation.

CE: How is Haitian cuisine different from other Caribbean islands?

CS: Haitian Food falls into a category of Caribbean/West Indian cuisine called Creole Cuisine, which is very much a blend of Taino influences mixed with either French or Spanish influence with of course the food culture of West Africa. Haitian Cuisine has a very unique blend of flavors although many of the ingredients used in Haitian food can be found in all Caribbean cuisine. Haitian gastronomy boasts with flavors and also has a little bit of spiciness to it that you will not find in Latin/Creole cuisine. (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba).

CE: What are four quintessential spices one should have when preparing a Haitian dish?

CS: In Spanish Creole Cuisine, they use something called Sofrito, in Haitian Cuisine we have something similar we call épis.

It’s a blend of parsley, green onions, chives, garlic, sour orange, cloves, onions and other spices blended together and that is what we use to marinate our meats and cook pretty much all of our dishes.

CE: What made you pursue a career in the culinary field?

CS: To be honest I am not sure. I think it choose me. I am happy and most comfortable the moment I step into a kitchen.

I feel alive and energized. I started to love food hanging around my grandmothers, and early on, I was already cooking for family and friends.

CE: What projects are you working on now?

CS: Well right now with Covid-19, a lot of things have come to a halt. But I am currently consulting for a Haitian Restaurant in Orlando and I am working on launching my podcast and online cooking class.

CE: Of your travels and experiences promoting Haitian gastronomy over your twenty year career, what are some highlights that standout to you?

CS: Oh wow, there are so many I cannot event enumerate. Cooking at the White House with the Haitian Embassy, Working with the Haitian Ambassador in Washington, D.C. on many occasions including helping to create and launch a platform for other chefs to be part of the movement. A cooking class called Manje Lakay, An event we did in Ireland, Venezuela with the Haitian Ambassador, are just a few of the many highlights that come to mind right now. But my biggest accomplishment is the creation of the very first food and wine festival in Haiti ‘Gôut et Saveurs Lakay’.