A few years ago we started our posts on “Who’s the Chef?”. Now we are coming back with a new series: A conversation with…
For our first issue, we’ll start a conversation with Patrick Woei. We interviewed him in 2014. You can read the article here.
Chef & Restaurant Owner
Restaurant: Spice Quest, Dr. J. F. Nassylaan #107, Paramaribo, Suriname.
In our first interview, you stated that eggplants, mushrooms, and fresh seafood are your favorite ingredients to work with. Has this changed since then? And if so, what is your favorite ingredient to work with now?
Eggplants, Mushrooms, and Fresh Seafood are still my top 3 choices for ingredients.
- Eggplants can be made in 1000 recipes and are used across different cultures each representing their own heritage through their unique added spices and flavors.
- I like mushrooms because of their texture, sometimes meaty, and their musty flavor which is claimed to be an excellent aphrodisiac.
- Finally, Fresh Seafood has the sweet taste of the sea and if cooked to perfection a fine texture.
What has changed however is, my personal taste to cooking techniques and presentation which has evolved to simpler cooking techniques, less trying to change the original flavor and texture and I am more conscientiously choosing ingredients that are in season and if possible from around me.
I get excited from strolling on local markets, all the time paying attention to what locals buy and how they eat.
A few weeks ago, on Facebook, there was a mention that you would reopen your first restaurant ‘Dumpling No. 1’. With this pandemic “haunting” us, how soon will this happen?
The announcement of Dumpling #1 was a summer project that my wife, Eve, did with our children, Kevin and Esperanca. It was a very successful pop-up concept staged in the restaurant of a friend in Florida.
With this activity, she wanted to teach the children what would be involved in realizing a concept menu into the execution of a real sale, aspects such as purchasing, planning, mise en place, marketing and even thinking of an online ordering and paying system.
They did very well, even the most demanding local food critic was impressed.
Do you think we have yet to expand our Surinamese cuisine culture? How would you change this?
The young Chefs in Suriname are at a difficult crossroads. The influence of social media is very tempting and they are imitating dishes and presentations from abroad.
They will have to make a choice, to follow trends from somewhere else, or are they brave enough to use their own cultural baggage to create and lead with their own vision of what food should be.
We are one of the few countries in the Caribbean, where you don’t find a standard hamburger on every menu.
If Surinamese Cuisine finds the strength, motivation, and support to create its own standards, we might have a great story to present to the world and it might even become a reason to visit destination Suriname.
Very supportive of this cause, would be to continue hosting events such as the Moksi Aleysi Strey, Curry Duck Competition, and Pinda Soep Battle.
For a couple of years, I have talked about the idea of going for a World Guinness Challenge such as the biggest Moksi Aleysi.
Hopefully one day, we could get the sponsors, volunteers, and supporters together in creating something that we can all be proud of, and hopefully, it can become a continuous inspiration to keep on challenging ourselves for something better and higher.
For years you have been THE Chairman of the Suriname Chefs Association. I’ve been a part of the board, and we both know the statutes and goals that were written then. Do you think, know, if you have reached the goals as written by you and the starting board members?
To elevate Culinary Professionalism in Suriname and to serve as a Platform for Professional Chefs.Vision
To engage in activities that will promote and stimulate Professionalism for Surinamese Chefs and raise awareness of Current International Culinary Trends.Mission
To help raise the Culinary standards in Suriname to Contemporary International levels.Goals
Yes, the recognition of the culinary profession has definitely been elevated, with the past activities we have also laid the groundwork for better communicating and contacts within the profession. Sadly the activities have stopped for different reasons.
My prediction is that with the foreseeable oil development and development, there will be an acute shortage of culinary professionals.
This shortage will be filled with guest workers, such as Filipino and Pakistani chefs, who are excellent professionals, but sadly it will be a missed opportunity to develop our local culinary cuisine.
When the oil is gone, you will have nothing special to present.
The solution would be to double our efforts in training local chefs and supporting unique local projects, such as Tan Bun Skrati and even your local chip snack producer.
We are far behind with supporting local producers with their packaging, packaging design, and marketing of their products.
Actually, we don’t have to look far for support, the Dutch are masters in these aspects, yet we choose to live in the past and live with grudge and hate and are too proud to ask for help.
We have all agreed that a platform for chefs in Suriname is needed. To guide them along the way. The Suriname Chefs Association (SCA) was established to be exactly that. Do you think that there are other platforms needed to support the SCA?
The most logic support for the SCA would be from the Hotel and Tourism Board, the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Tourism, however, cooperation, long term goals, and dedication is a problem and like a record that is stuck, I keep on getting invited to workshops to talk about the same issues over and over again.
Spice Quest. A restaurant that’s always been close to our hearts. How do you see your restaurant in 2025? Keeping the new normal in mind of course.
Covid, transition in government, and inflation have greatly influenced our income.
However, I have a great team and believe that even with all the challenges, SQ is and has been a stable provider of food, service, and dining experience.
We have always been flexible and able to go over and beyond in providing service to our guests and have never shied away from challenges.
Thank you again for your honest answers. Do you have anything else you would like our readers to know?
“After every rain, comes sunshine!”~ Patrick Woei