A NIGHT IN Chef Spotlight: Toya Henry

Brooklyn native and business owner, esteemed Chef Toya Henry creates nuanced Caribbean flavors by combining traditional flavors with unconventional influences.

A NIGHT IN Chef Spotlight: Toya Henry

Photo Cred: Chef Toya Henry

Learning new culinary methods through her travels

For our A NIGHT IN pop-up series, Chef Henry created a masterful three-course Caribbean and Southeast Asian fusion menu. Incorporating her travels and cooking expertise into each dish, guests experienced unique flavor profiles rich with history. 

Under the guidance of esteemed chef Erik Bruner-Yang of Foreign National, she was always committed to learning new culinary methods. Following her apprenticeship in the kitchen, she spent two years traveling in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia to study diverse regional flavors. Since then, Chef Henry has developed her techniques and sustainable practices at many prominent establishments, including Mina Stone Catering, Maketto & Spoken English, and Michelin-Starred Restaurant Oxalis.

In 2018, she launched Pimento to shift the approach to Caribbean cuisine by infusing various cuisines into traditional recipes. She currently hosts private events and supper clubs throughout New York City, working at events from The James Beard Foundation to MoMA PS1.

Designing menus inspired by her upbringing

Chef Henry’s main inspiration comes from her upbringing. She connects her influences in her dishes, as her mom is from Barbados, and her dad is from Jamaica. While she learned that each of her cultures has a different cooking techniques, she enjoys finding commonalities in their cooking techniques, flavors, and spices.

"I wanted to build a bond between myself and the person having dinner. When I create dishes and menus, I focus on putting my heart and spirit into the dishes, so I'm sharing a bit of me with you."

In our first course, we were mesmerized by a Gem Kabocha Cake, paired with a delicious chicory salad, Asian pear, and a lemon and yuzu dressing. The fish was a perfect combination of sweet and bitter, creating a refreshing dish.

"This cake is one that I learned from my grandfather. He used to make it for me every other morning, and it's also a dish he learned from generations of women in his family. We could almost taste the tradition as this pumpkin-based cake was combined with a "secret family seasoning."

A NIGHT IN Chef Spotlight: Toya Henry

Following the starter, Chef Henry served herbed bird’s eye chicken stuffed with her fami’y secret green seasoning – a family recipe. On the side, she prepared cook-up rice, a Guyanese dish served commonly over New Year’s Day.

"The chicken has used this seasoning in my family for years. I'm the 6th generation to prepare it and put my own spin on it."

A NIGHT IN Chef Spotlight: Toya Henry

Chef Henry prepared a chocolate truffle bite with 60% cacao and a small rum brownie bite on the bottom for dessert. Edible tea flowers sat atop each truffle. It was the perfect sweet, savory, and bitter trifecta with the added Vietnamese and Ethiopian coffee. The dish was almost too delectable to eat!

A NIGHT IN Chef Spotlight: Toya Henry

Chef Henry hopes to represent how dynamic Caribbean food can be through each meal. Through her creative approach, she displays new kinds of Caribbean food and demystifies how complex the flavors can be.

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