1. Where did you learn how to cook?I followed a chef’s education in the Netherlands, which was a 4 year course. The system there is to go to school one day a week and work in restaurants the rest of the days.In my first year I took lessons from Marcel Wittenberg, now Chef and owner of Baka Foto, he got me hooked on cooking. So it’s not a complete coincidence that we found each other again years later.
During my education I have worked in several restaurants and hotel where I learned the basics of cooking. After my education I continued to work in different places till I got hired by Tante Loes, a real chic, modern and trendy lounge – restaurant. There I developed myself to sous-chef and I really learned how to manage a team.
After Tante Loes, I become Chef at Xanders Bazaar. Here I took the chance to develop my cooking skills to the more Mediterranean and Arabian way of cooking. I learned to work with exotic spices and flavors. I think I learned the most of cooking in that period.
2. How many years have you been cooking? I now work over a little more than 13 years as a professional chef.
3. With which ingredient do you prefer to work with?This is a difficult question, because there are so many nice and rich flavors around. But if I have to choose… Nowadays I like to work with citrus-flavored kind of ingredients, like lemongrass and djoeroek poeroet. You will also find fresh herbs in and around in my kitchen.
4. What is your favorite dish to prepare and why? Also a tough question. The last two years I really enjoyed to make my own ice creams, because there are no boundaries. I have made the most extreme creams you can imagine, like cucumber/granny schmith or clove ice cream, or cinnamon sorbet. Besides ice-cream, I like to cook vegetarian, it’s really cool to cook without meat or fish and make something tasty. The big challenge is to make non-vegetarians like my dishes without getting a comment “Where’s the meat?!”.
5. What is your favorite dish to eat? I really like fresh sushi and also Italian food. As long as the ingredients are fresh, I’m happy.
6. What do you think of our Surinamese cuisine? The Surinamese cuisine is full of potential with all the rich flavors there can be found, but I don’t think it’s really diverse. Despite the diversity, everything you eat is very tasteful. It’s also fun to see all the different influences from all the cultures.
7. What could be better? I think there is a big lack of basic knowledge among the chefs here. There is enough talent, but there are not enough places to really learn how to cook. For example, there are a lot of people who know how to make a good soato or moksi alesi, but they don’t know why they make it that way. Knowledge is POWER, especially in the kitchen.
8. Is there a platform for chefs needed?Of course it’s important. If you want to bring the level of chefs to a higher level, they need to share their knowledge. The Surinamese Chef Association is a really good initiative and I think it’s a good start.
9. Do you think the Surinamese cuisine is evolving?My father is from Suriname, so I’ve been here a couple of times for vacation. The soato still tastes good and the moksi alesi too, but I don’t see many new developments. It’s a shame, because compared with Holland, there are much more flavors to be found in Suriname. You only need to know what to do with them.
10. What direction should we go with the Surinamese cuisine? Again I think it’s more important to get the basics right and then decide which way we go.