Haitian cuisine, culture on display

Haiti’s cuisine and creativity will be on display this weekend as some of the country’s most talented individuals show off their skills with a culinary fundraiser in Hollywood, and artisan expo in Miami Beach.

Both events kick off May’s Haitian Heritage Month in South Florida where the focus remains Haiti’s ongoing effort to rebuild after the January 2010 earthquake.

On Friday, the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa will serve up Haitian cuisine as a dozen Haitian and English-speaking Caribbean chefs cook up a storm at the Haiti Chefs for Education fundraiser. The $150 per person event is from 6 to 11 p.m.

The goal, says Louise John of Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education Foundation – Haiti Project, is to raise about $30,000 as part of an overall $150,000 goal. The money will help defray the costs for nine Haitians who have been accepted into hospitality programs at Caribbean colleges and universities to earn their associate degree. The students are among 18 who were part of an 18-month program organized by the Caribbean Hotel Tourist Association to help young Haitians after the earthquake.

“Many of the students are still living in tents. Three of them have no living family members left,” said John, who worked closely with the students.

John said Friday’s event is not just a chance to experience Haitian cuisine but also to hear from the students on how their lives have been transformed by opportunities in hospitality. The students, who were unable to get U.S. visas in time, will give testimony via Skype.

Hearing that the Haitian students would not make it in time to help serve and show off their own delicacies, the Caribbean Students Association at Johnson and Wales University in Miami Shores has stepped in, John said.

In addition to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, the event is being sponsored by the Haitian Culinary Alliance and the Oasis Foundation in Port-au-Prince.

Among the award-winning Haitian chefs participating: Stephan Berrouet Durand, Markens Isidor, Jouvens Jean and Ron Duprat of Bravo TV’s Top Chef. Also joining them will be Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year, Antiguan Maurine Bowers, and Jamaican-Antiguan-Farm to Fork guru, Dezi Banhan of Hermitage Bay, Antigua.

On Saturday and Sunday the celebration of Haiti’s creativity continues with the return of Women in Production international trade fair. The free event at the Miami Beach Convention Center kicks off with a ribbon cutting by Haiti’s First Lady Sophia Martelly. About 60 artisans, including hand-bag, jewelry and linen designers will be showing off their products.

Both the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce and Vital Voices’ Femmes en Democratie, which are organizing the event, say the goal is to get Haitian products into the hands of U.S. consumers and help the women make connections.

“The key thing is for these women to sell their products so they can go back to Haiti and create jobs,” said Pierre Saliba, chairman of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce. “Every time they sell their products, they create a job.”

The Women in Production international fair is from 1 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr. For further information, visit www.haitianwomeninproduction.com

Haiti Chefs for Education fundraiser is from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Westin Diplomat Hotel, 3555 South Ocean Dr., Hollywood. Tickets are $150 per person, cash bar available. Reserve your space today via www.haitianculinaryalliance.org or call direct 954-549-8602.


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