Up Close and Culinary with Chef Shawain Whyte
English cook and television presenter Delia Smith once said, "Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed. I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself." Sharing similar sentiment is New York Chef, Shawain Whyte.
He has not only spent most of his life loving food, but he has shared his love for food with the world, one delectable dish at a time. So, Food got up close and culinary with Chef Whyte.
Born and raised in Jamaica, hef Whyte, affectionately called Chef Jay, told Food that his affection for food began at an early age, as he was always the first to run to the kitchen.
His love affair, however, didn't develop until he was introduced to food and nutrition at Black River High School in St Elizabeth. "Though it seemed impossible to be a chef due to economic difficulties, I believed in myself and so did my teacher at the time," he said. It was then and there that he made the decision to cook his way out of poverty.
He furthered his studies at Western Hospitality Institute in Montego Bay before migrating to the United States, where he got his first kitchen job in the America at fast-food chain Burger King.
Who would have thought that this young man from rural St Elizabeth would become an executive chef at Cafe Sunflower in New York? Describing his journey as amazing yet humbling, he said, "Trust me, it is a great experience. The love and respect I get from my coworkers, as well as seeing regular pop-ins from countless celebrities and local customers are very motivating."
Specialising in all things vegan, he attributes this influence to the way he was raised - around farmers and the Rastafarian culture in Jamaica. "I have always known that ital is vital. So when I got job to work at a vegan restaurant - Cafe Blossom in NYC - it just brought me back to my roots. I created some of the same local dishes I observed being prepared by my Rasta 'breddrin' (friend) with a 'fancier' twist. People would go crazy over them, so I took that and ran with it, and have never looked back since," he revealed. Combine that with his ability to take food from other regions and add his Jamaican flavours to them while cooking from the heart, and you couldn't ask for a more mouth-watering dining experience!
So what keeps him motivated? For him, it's his family. His mother and father, who sacrificed so much to see his dream come true; and his wife and daughter, who give him unconditional support. "I want to help create a better environment for our generation who is stuck on fast, frozen foods, and that's not good. I want to create better and healthier choices for my daughter. I just want to cook and make my family proud and happy. I do it for them," he told Food.
The savoury sojourn to greatness has not been easy, and while it has been filled with struggles, trials and obstacles, he said it was all worth it. Working at some of the top vegan/
vegetarian restaurant in cities like New York City, Seattle, and Atlanta sometimes seemed surreal to the Jamaican chef. Meeting and greeting, while working with people he grew up watching on television, becoming personal chefs for celebrities such as Ludacris, Tasha Smith, Kimberly Ellis, John Salley, India Arie and Woody Harrelson, and preparing scrumptious dishes for many private events have added that well-needed spice to his culinary adventure.
There will be more in store for chef Whyte since he has returned to his roots and is .