The Art of Cooking, Ron Duprat Style

He brings to the table the vibrant colors, the flavors, and the tropical twist of the West Indies… Think Lobster Stuffed Diver Sea Scallops with Champagne Caviar Sauce and Baby Micro salad… What about Jumbo Scallop, Sweet Chili Tahini Sauce, Watermelon and Avocado Slaw? Meet acclaimed Chef Ron Duprat. Top Chef describes him as a “expert in exotic flavors,”  often incorporating his own Haitian Creole influences with French-Asian Fusion cuisine.

INTERVIEW WITH CHEF RON DUPRAT

MJ: Chef, did you cook growing up?

R: Some of my earliest memories are of cooking alongside my grandmother in Mare Rouge, Haiti. In my home country, boys are not usually allowed in the kitchen. However, my grandma always told me to be me. We cooked with fresh produce from my father’s gardens, simmering sauces, and seasonal herbs. Cooking still conjures up memories of time spent in the kitchen with Grandma. The unique tastes, smells and feels—those are things that cannot be experienced in a sterile classroom; they’re learned by immersion. Food doesn’t only nourish us; it creates memories that last a lifetime.

MJ: Tell us about culinary school…

R: Culinary school is not all roses; not everyone’s going to be on Food Network, Hell’s Kitchen or Top Chef. Becoming a chef requires many sacrifices. So if you don’t have the love or passion for cooking… do something else!  I learned a lot from Philip Marrone, Antonina Bongiovanni, and, of course, from the people who opened the culinary doors for me, such as Theophin Fraen, Fanel Cadet, and Morgan Octave. I went to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, one of the best. After I graduated, my first job as a professional cook was Executive Chef for Pelican Bay, at Pelican Bay Foundation in Naples, Florida. I will forever cherish the time I spent there. In my life, I’ve had the opportunity to work in some of the most prestigious places in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean; I’ve worked alongside some of the world’s best chefs.

MJ: You were among the more than 500 chefs from 37 states who gathered at the White House in June 2010 to join Michelle Obama’s effort to fight childhood obesity. Tell us about your other activities?

R: After my appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef, the sky became the limit. Yes, I’m involved in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and the future looks very bright. I’m also working for BCA (Black Culinary Alliance), FLIPANY (Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth), Le Cordon Blue, Food for the Poor, and PADF (Pan American Development Foundation). There’s a mission behind my boundless ambition: I want to make the world a better place by bringing people together in the fight against childhood hunger, especially in Africa and Haiti.

MJ: Funniest kitchen incident? Worst kitchen incident?

R: Imagine. I’m at the West Baden in French Lick, Indiana, home of Larry Bird. I’m roasting a stuffed pig and suddenly decide to kick it up a Haitian notch. I add strong pepper in the pig’s mouth. 135 degrees. The pig simply explodes in the oven. Hiroshima!

MJ: Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

R: As Hector Santiago would say, “Cook with heart and cojones.” And no shortcuts, please: use only the freshest ingredients.

MJ: Favorite gadgets?

R: Anti-Griddle Cooling Machine. Chamber Vacuum Packing Machine. Chef Ice Cream Machine. Smoking Gun Handheld Smoker. Circulator Kit.

MJ: Favorite food to cook with?

R: Foie Gras and truffle oil.

When he visits his mother in Naples, Ron Duprat cooks her favorite: Haitian’s pwason gwosèl with timalice sauce. If you want to learn some of his signature dishes, pick up “My Journey of Cooking” by Ron Duprat on Amazon.com or at your local Barnes and Noble. Or meet the chef in person at Latitudes Restaurant & Tiki Bar on Hollywood Beach.

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