What: Founder and Owner of Lolo Koekroe Consultancy and Kitchen
Where: Currently we do our prep work in our Production Kitchen and cook on premises before and during the catering or private event
Age: 41 years young
1.Where did you learn how to cook? Honestly, I don’t call myself a chef, but rather more a freestyle cook that loves new challenges in and outside the kitchen. I was able to learn the basic skills from many kitchens throughout the USA.
I graduated from Florida International University with a Hospitality BS degree where I learned the basic kitchen techniques, sauces and business side of having a kitchen and restaurant. Then started to work my way from off premise catering companies, hotels, and end up opening & managing stadiums and arenas. (Opened and worked at 16 arenas and stadiums throughout the USA).
I was in a special team of opening stadium/ special events and consisted of two top chefs: John Perrault and Rolf Baumann who took me under their wings. We made menus and dishes for ten thousands of people from Super bowls, NBA and NHL playoffs, World Series, Concerts Music Stars, Actors, Politicians… basically world class events. I had the privilege to open Thai, Sushi, Bar & grill restaurants and a few food truck concepts.
2.How many years have you been cooking? Like I said, cooking was not my thing. From 1996 till 2011 the two chefs were my role models and I became their right hand when it comes to menu planning, costing, developing, new ideas, new concepts, presentation, displaying, show casing and most importantly presenting food that are appetizing for the eyes as well as the taste buds. We shared offices and kitchen where I was hands on with the chefs and kitchen crew developing new dishes for all the events. So basically I learned from seeing, hearing, tasting and trying it out.
Nowadays I am trying to mix what I learned with ingredients I get here at the local markets. So far my dishes have been accepted.
3.With which ingredient to you prefer to work with?I prefer to work with any fish or seafood. I feel it’s light and healthier for the body. I barely cook with salt nowadays because I prefer fresh natural ingredients and they do their work. By using the right juices of fruits, lemon, limes, fresh or dry herbs, seasoning, rubs and marinates we all can do magic in the kitchen.
One thing that always stuck in my mind: “Let every bite taste different from the previous one”. I truly believe that in Suriname we are moments away from being able to get a lot more ingredients than other countries. I still would like those who import fruits, vegetables and ingredients to think outside the box. Once they educate the main stream, they will buy it. For example: I love kale. It has lots of nutritional values; it’s cheap and can grow all year round.
4.What is your favorite dish to prepare and why? I say a good piece of pan seared Chilean Sea bass that is actually one of endangered fish. Now, that for me is like eating a piece of Steak with Fish components. Add some easy stir fried Brussels’ sprout, kale, and red bell peppers. I am down… With of course a glass of wine or handcrafted beer.
5.What is your favorite dish to eat? When I worked at San Diego Petco Park we had a Sushi restaurant in the ballpark. Yes, I ate 6 days a week sushi and 1 day a burger or chicken breast for my “Meat” intake. If I got sick of sushi you could find me at any Mexican taco bar eating fish or shrimp tacos. During my Chicago days I ate lots of Thai, Vietnamese (Pho soups), and Mexican food. In New York I walked down the Avenues (Walking from 125 street to 14th street) during my off days and got to taste a lot of appetizers and small bites. That’s why I want locals now to taste what I tasted back then. If you ever go to NYC, call me. I will make your $40 worth $1 million.
Nowadays I eat 5 days a week soups (Udon noodles style) at night with Thai or Vietnamese Broth base with lots of Surinamese vegetables…. Bita wirie, bok choy, okra, eggplant… So coming back to your question…. Any 3 specialty sushi rolls from Azuki sushi in San Diego on a plate!!
6.What do you think of our Surinamese cuisine? I left when I was 18 years old. I’ve been here now over 2 years. Honestly I am ashamed not knowing how to make traditional Javanese Bamie (noodles) or Nasie (fried rice). I would love to learn. Maybe I should pick up a Surinamese cookbook. So I have no idea where to start… All I know is that I love Surinamese food, but would not want to eat it on a daily basis.
7.What could be better? Nowadays everybody talks about the Food network programs. I know there are two or three shows here in Suriname but I think Suriname TV stations should talk among each other and focus on teaching everyone on
1) Basic cooking
2) Surinamese and International cooking
3) Cooking competitions
Currently, they show the local cooking programs (with Patrick Woei, Soeng Ngie and Patrick Spalburg) late or only ones. Turn on your TV right now and I bet there is a replay of WWF wrestling, a Soccer game where 4 TV channels are showing the same game, a TV series that has no influence on the mind except for filling time sitting behind the TV… You get my point.
So I would like to see local cooking programs. I bet those who migrate to Suriname can learn 1 or two things from the Surinamese kitchen as well. Do you think a local kid can make traditional pom or grit’ bana soup??
8.Is there a platform for chefs needed? Let’s start with Love of the kitchen. Learn and respect a sharp knife. Never sit on a kitchen table. Know your basic ingredients, but don’t stop there. So buy a book or Google international ingredients as well. Go to any local food contest (Burger battle, Suit – Soeng Ngie Family Cook out, SCA chef competition, Berg and Dal Amazon Flavors, Moksi Alesi Strey) and talk to the cooks and chef. Ask questions. I say go to the local fresh produce and fish market or butcher shop. Most important, start planting a fruit tree, an herb, a vegetable….. You will appreciate that dish 100X when the ingredients are coming from your own garden. We all have a yard. My fresh herb “yard” were 6 wooden boxes inside my NYC apartment. The apartment always smelled great and guests always thought I cooked something for them.
9.Do you think the Surinamese cuisine is evolving? Like I said, I have been only here for 2.5 years but if I based it upon my catering business my customers and their friends are so happy that there is finally change at the catering events. They see different local ingredients being used to make food items like tapas, tacos, sliders, canapés, bruschettas, sushi and more.
I believe people are getting educated a lil bit more and do travel more. They want to taste the food that they tasted abroad now in their house. People have two kitchens now in their house. Look in the big supermarket, try buying fresh produce on a Monday nite. People are health cautious and willing to cook at home instead of going to the restaurants. But to get back to your question, I believe the Surinamese kitchen has gone down. Only a few places you can get the real authentic Surinamese food.
10.What direction should we go with the Surinamese cuisine? I believe in freshness to keep all the good nutrients intact, so the less time the ingredient is on a stove or in the oven the better I like it (Of course u still want to cook the chicken through). So I would love to see cooks to head that way instead of frying the fish for 30 minutes just pan sear it for 3-5 minutes. Blanche the vegetables for 1 minute instead of being in a pot for 15 minutes….. Use fresh herbs, raw vegetables, and local fresh fruit juices.
At the end as long as people still have a good home cooked meal with their own creativity and share with friends and family I am a happy camper.