Honoring the Spirits of Haiti with Chef Cybille St. Aude

Philadephia-based Chef Cybille St. Aude showcased her Haitian roots in her meals, including storytelling and traveling together.

Honoring the spirits of Haiti with Chef Cybille St. Aude

Photo Cred: Chef Cybille St. Aude

Bringing Haiti’s energy to the table

Chef Cybille St. Aude’s A NIGHT IN series, “L’espri,” took guests on a three-course culinary journey through Haiti. Her storytelling comes from reflecting on her identity as Haitian American. Growing up in the U.S., she struggled with the duality of not being Haitian or American “enough.” 

Through food, she shares her story of identity on every plate. She brings Haiti’s energy to the table, illustrating its extensive history and regionality.

"Haiti is an island rooted in history, culture, and love. There is this saying that Haitians have this form of resilience and that resilience doesn't only come from the island. It dates back to Africa and dates back to the motherland. So it's important that when you eat this food, you think of everything that makes up Haiti. What's important is the narrative includes richness and history. And at the end of the day, the food is just delicious."

A cultural journey through Haiti

Starting with the sea, Chef Cybille guided us through the energy of Haiti, traveling through the mountains to the city center. 

For her first course, she brought us steamed New England clams with epis butter – a Haitian green seasoning, the primary root of all Haitian food. We soaked up the delectable sauce with her hard dough-style Haitian bread. The combination of Haitian seasoning and New England clams flavorfully blended Chef Cybille’s Haitian and American backgrounds. 

Honoring the spirits of Haiti with Chef Cybille St. Aude

Following our first course, Chef Cybille served Kabrit ak Vivres Alimentaire, a goat dish with ground provisions. Naming her dish “Vivres Alimentaire,” which translates to “life” in Creole, the dish provided us energy and fortification. Chef Cybille used a four-tiered cooking technique involving smoking, broiling, braising, and grilling to create a delicate blend of flavors. She served Ti malice sauce on the side and shared the cultural folklore behind the dressing.

Honoring the spirits of Haiti with Chef Cybille St. Aude

"There are these two tricksters, Buki and Ti Malice, who are famous in Haitian legend and cultural folklore. Ti malice – a great cook – always cooks lunch and prepares a meal for himself and his friend Buki. Buki seems only to come around right when the food is ready, and he eats it all up. Having had enough, Ti Malice decides to make something so spicy that Buki never wants to return and freeload again. But the plan backfires, and Buki happens to love the spiciness. He runs into the town and tells everyone about the spicy sauce. Legend has it that the townspeople named this sauce after Ti Malice."

For our final course, Chef Cybille presented her Bon Bon Siwrop, a ginger molasses cake.   Harnessing the memories of home, she described how the dessert always stuck out to her when traveling to Haiti because of its bright orange color. She paired the cake with a Kafe Du Soir rum sauce and a coffee Clairin cocktail. Often distilled by families living along the mountainside, Clairin represents Haiti’s vast regionality through her dishes.

Honoring the spirits of Haiti with Chef Cybille St. Aude

"Haitians are not known for their desserts. We are more known for our robust meats, flavorful rice, and party-style tapas appetizers. But the ones we have are cool, and it was important to keep the integrity of these desserts and combine them into the best representation of Haiti."

Preserving Haiti's cultural heritage

Chef Cybille’s meals are motivated by her efforts to share food stories of her heritage. Preserving her familial memories while adding her creative spin on tradition, she is inspired to dedicate her career to telling the story of Haitian culture through the culinary arts. 

"It can't be that our food and stories die with our elders. They have to live on and be able to really step up! Finding innovative and creative ways to do this while keeping that integrity is super important to me."

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