Photo cred: @bufotos @philviaud
While Chef Alain Lemaire curates exceptional Haitian dining experiences, he first taught himself to cook at 7. He now has become a co-owner and award-winning Executive Chef of Sensory Delights and Arome Catering.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Alain’s dishes draw inspiration from his upbringing and South Florida. Growing up amongst Haiti’s vibrant street food vendors, he curates each dish to memories of home. From eating fritay along the beaches to street vendors in the mountains, he hopes to showcase Haitian cuisine.
Alain became fascinated by the process of cooking from a young age. In the kitchen, he watched his mother, paying close attention so he could recreate the dishes. Alain’s original interest in cooking stemmed from his desire for independence.
Alain attended cooking classes after school, where he first witnessed the transformation of traditional Haitian foods. He saw the change between mere ingredients into unique dishes. While he couldn’t envision a career path in the culinary arts, Alain found his way to Johnson & Wales University.
At the same time, his family struggled to see the possibilities within this career path. He faced many challenges in college, including learning English alongside a full course load. However, he landed his first culinary job through school internships before graduating.
Before starting his own business, Alain spent seven years in the traditional food industry. As he always considered himself rebellious, he pursued culinary arts to push the boundaries of what was creatively possible. However, Alain began feeling limited in his creativity as a line cook.
After attending a Food Festival in Haiti, he met Neima Belancourt-Heraux, who became his business partner at Sensory Delights. Building his own business took extensive trial and error.
By building Sensory Delights, Alain began hosting small, intimate groups of 10-15 people. This new forum allowed him to express himself more creatively. In recent dinners, he fused traditional Asian and Haitian tastes to create new dishes.
At one of Alain’s recent private dinners, he tells the story of Soup Joumou, also called Liberty Soup. Eaten every Haitian Independence Day on January 1st, the traditional pumpkin soup commemorates freedom from French colonial rule.
Alain shares this story to commemorate the dish and educate us about the symbolic nature of resilience and independence. Alain believes he can share his memories of home and Haitian history through intimate dinners. And, his reach with larger audiences has already begun — Alain has starred on TV shows such as Luda Can’t Cook, Food Network, and Chopped.
Alain finds it challenging to catch all Caribbean flavors in the U.S. market. However, he attempts to produce Haitian classics: such as Griot, fried pork shoulder, Poul Ak Nwa, stewed chicken with cashews, and sauteed smoked heron.
When Alain shares his stories with his guests, he feels a sense of pride in telling the stories of generations of Haitians. Alain wishes to continue to stretch the boundaries of his creativity through new flavors, fusions, and techniques.
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