complete team effort. The support from the Haitian Embassy and partners like Brie Catering was amazing. Getting the opportunity to be in a room with so many talented chefs representing their country was an absolute joy. The atmosphere was electric. I felt honored to represent Haiti and very humbled to know that our beloved Soup Joumou, filled with history and tradition, was able to win the first prize!
"Before cooking, I was in the corporate world, making a decent living, but I wasn?t happy. I didn?t have any direction in life." You m ade a m ove back t o Hai t i a f ew year s ago, can you t el l u s a l i t t l e m or e on t h e r eason w hy f or com i n g t o Hai t i an d w h at w as t h e ex per i en ce l i k e? After the earthquake in 2010, there was a massive repatriation movement taking place that I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to come back to Haiti to offer my skills and knowledge to assist in any way that I could. Working in the kitchens in Haiti, I got the opportunity to learn some regional cuisines of the country, work alongside some talented Haitian chefs, and also meet some wonderful people in the industry. You r ecen t l y m ade t h e m ove back t o t h e US, w h at pr om pt ed t h i s ch an ge? I decided to move back to the U.S. in Feb 2017, a little over 2 years ago and landed on the West Coast. I felt like I had hit a ceiling in my career and I needed space to keep growing.
Th at i s qu i t e a ch an ge of scen er y. W h at i s Ch ef Di m i t r i doi n g i n Cal i f or n i a n ow ? Yes, I moved to the Bay Area in California. I currently reside in the historical and colorful city of Oakland. The pace is very laid back on the Left Coast, but everyone out here is on their grind. The food scene here is eventful and eclectic. Everyone loves to eat and try different things. I joined a mobile food entrepreneur program called Instrucktional and developed my concept for a Haitian food truck called ManjĂŠ. Th e f ood t r u ck i s a f u si on of Car i bbean gast r on om y bu t m ost l y i n spi r ed by Hai t i an cu i si n e. Can you t el l u s you r v i si on beh i n d t h i s n ew ven t u r e an d h ow ar e peopl e i n t h e Bay ar ea em br aci n g i t ? The idea behind ManjĂŠ was to introduce Haitian Cuisine to the bay area. There are not that many Caribbean restaurants in the Bay and almost no Haitian establishments to choose from. Our community is under-represented so I wanted to change that narrative. I offer traditional Haitian dishes like Griyo, Diri Kole, gratinĂŠs, but I also use ingredients and influences from the Caribbean like jerk and tropical based fruit sauces and glazes.
I k n ow f or a f act t h at t h e i n n ovat or an d en t r epr en eu r t h at you ar e, t h e f ood t r u ck i s j u st t h e begi n n i n g. W h at ot h er pl an s do you h ave i n t h e n ear f u t u r e? I?m focused on growing Manje to its fullest potential as a food company. The food truck is just one aspect of the business, where we?ll be participating in more food festivals, markets, and street activities. Our catering department is slowly growing. We are looking to partner up with 3rd party catering services to offer corporate and private meals. We?re also looking into developing a line of condiments and other food items . An y pl an s f or an ot h er v i si t t o Hai t i ? I haven?t been to Haiti since I moved to Cali. So it?s been over 2 years. I honestly don?t know when I?ll be visiting Haiti again, but it will be sooner rather than later. When I do come, my main priorities will be the beach and the mountains! I miss that! I want to let you know how much of a pleasure it has been to sit with you and chatting a little, I am looking forward to seeing what Chef Dimitri has planned next.
On m an y occasi on s, you h ave h ad t h e oppor t u n i t y t o sh ow case, an d h ave becom e an am bassador f or Hai t i an Cu i si n e. You h ave h ad a ch an ce t o par t i ci pat e i n t w o Hai t i Em bassy Even t s i n Wash i n gt on w i t h t h e l at est bei n g t h e Em bassy Ch ef s Ch al l en ge w h er e you r ecei ved t h e covet ed Peopl es ch oi ce aw ar d f or t h e best di sh of t h e even t . Can you t el l u s m or e abou t i t an d h ow i t f el t t o r epr esen t Hai t i at su ch an even t ? W h at di d i t m ean t o you ? The Embassy Chef Challenge was one of the best cooking experiences that I've ever participated in. I have to admit that it was a