Why This Caribbean Chef Has Extra Star Quality

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

There aren’t many chefs, Caribbean or otherwise, who can say they’ve cooked for astronauts. But Michael Henville can. Cooking at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is just one rung in a career ladder that has taken him from his native Nevis to the Culinary Institute of America in New York and now back to the island, where he’s the executive chef behind the country’s school meals program; current Chef of the Year; frequently speaks to local students about careers in the culinary field. If Nevis were ever to elect a Minister of Culinary Arts, our money would be on this guy for the win.

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL I can remember being eight years old in the kitchen watching my mother cook and thinking it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! It was a lively place, that kitchen! Sitting on the kitchen counter observing the food transformation; the smell of freshly chopped herbs; the sound of food frying; and the taste of the finished product all awakened my senses, and from that moment, I was hooked.

NEVISIAN NOSH Bananas restaurant is high in the mountains with a romantic setting other restaurants can’t match; have the barbecue ribs and coconut cake. Coconut Grove is a must for wine-lovers, with one of the best selections on the island. And on a Friday evening, you have to check out our local Water Department’s barbecue! It’s a really popular outdoor party with a live DJ playing to the sizzle and pop of the grilI. You can’t go wrong with the barbecue ribs or jerk chicken.

PREFERRED PLATE One of my favorite meals is our national dish, stewed saltfish. It’s a delicious mixture of stewed salted cod served with spicy plantains, coconut dumplings and seasoned breadfruit, prepared with a distinct St. Kitts & Nevis flavor. I always feel honored to prepare and serve it.

SPICE OF LIFE No matter what else I have in my kitchen, as long as I have fresh herbs and spices I can transform anything and make it taste amazing.

THE FORGOTTEN FOOD Even though the Caribbean is known for its fresh seafood, I think it is underappreciated. We take our seafood for granted and forget that many people never get the chance to savor a fresh seafood dish. We need to love and appreciate our seafood more!

THE JOY OF COOKING Once you’ve become comfortable with cooking a particular dish, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on it and to add your own creativity. If you make a mistake, you can always start over. Believe in yourself and have fun! Cooking is a joy, and should bring joy to whoever is preparing it.

BEHIND THE FRIDGE DOOR I’ve got lots of local fruit and veggies; a pot of rice and peas; and jerk pork in my fridge right now. Oh, and Carib beer.

 

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