If Chef McAlex can thank one person for the fact that he’s a successful chef today, it should be his aunt Anise. Growing up in Haiti, her dishes stroked his palate and made him realize how much care and patience goes into making a great dish. Now the owner of his own catering company, Kassav Catering in Tampa, Florida, the caterer-chef applies the same passion when he’s seasoning and flavoring his dishes. “I feel at peace and centered in the kitchen,” he explains. “There’s no other room in the house that speaks to me than that particular room. Some regard food as a source of nutrition but to me food is an art, an expression of culture, a creation born of labor and love.”
Love. Now, that’s something that goes into everything Chef McAlex creates for his clients in the Tampa Bay area. Whether it’s barbecued chicken for a backyard affair, or a fancy seafood dinner for a special occasion, the chef makes certain that he serves food that will be talked about long after it’s been digested.
Kreyolicious: You own your own company Kassav Catering? Walk me through your busiest weekends.
I am the sole proprietor of Kassav Catering. Kassav is an up-and-coming business. I started Kassav a few years ago, but put the business on deferment as I pursued another venture out of state. I’ve catered for birthday parties, weddings, graduations and various other celebratory events. My primary focus at this time is debuting Kassav Catering to the Tampa Bay and surrounding areas; I’ve focused most of my marketing efforts via Social Media. Kassav is a Haitian-American fusion cuisine that appeals to all palates. Kassav is equipped to cater events of all sizes. Kassav also provides cooking courses for singles and couples for a nominal fee.
Kreyolicious: Does everyone have what it takes to be a professional chef?
I prescribe to the notion that everyone can be and do whatever they put their minds to. If one desires to be a professional chef and has the motivation and gumption to obtain the education and training required then by all means they can be a professional chef. It’s important to understand in all things the difference between enjoying and being passionate about something. A chef should be passionate about the foods he/she creates and serves.
Kreyolicious: What dishes do you enjoy preparing the most?
I enjoy the challenge of creating new dishes; you’ll find me in the kitchen early in the morning, mid afternoon or late night experimenting with different ingredients, I love to push boundaries and mix flavors. Haitian blood courses through my veins, therefore Haitian dishes are my favorite to prepare, banan peze, diri kole, diri djondjon, legume, fritay to name a few.
Kreyolicious: What would you like to say to an ordinary cook, who’d like to take things to a professional level?
If you’re passionate about food and cooking exceptional dishes, follow your heart. Seek out culinary schools in your area; pinpoint what you want to do (open a food truck business or a restaurant, teach culinary classes, etc.) Speak to professionals in the food industry who can instruct you on what to do and what to avoid (get a mentor in the field.) Lastly but most importantly, do not allow anyone to tell you that you cannot make it as a chef, passion without drive/action is futile; believe in yourself and run towards your dreams with blinders on.
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