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Coffee Break Chat: Antiguan Chef Kahyeme Benjamin

by Karen Rollins Feb 18, 2019

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Antiguan chef Kahyeme Benjamin gives his parents full credit for instilling his passion for food after his childhood was spent watching, preparing and tasting their home-cooked food.

Kahyeme went on to sharpen his culinary skills at the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI), and then completed further studies in America at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

When he returned to Antigua, Kahyeme established ‘The Perfect Chef (Private and Personal Chef Services)’ which to date comprises of a team of ten chefs. He also returned to the ABHTI as a teacher to pass on what he’s learned to the next generation of Antiguan chefs.

Yello Antigua asked Kahyeme about his culinary career, what he loves about teaching, and where he gets inspiration from for his menus.

He also gave us the recipe for one of his signature dishes – mild spiced pickled coleslaw with pineapple chunks.

Where did your passion for food come from?

My mother Geraldine and father Bernard ‘Smokey’ Benjamin.

Tell us how your culinary career got started.

After completing secondary school, I took a part-time job as a steward at the Big Banana Holding Company Ltd, and while working there I enhanced my passion for food.

My head chef at the time, Kenneth Lewis, said I was destined to become a great chef and he encouraged me to enrol at the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI) to pursue a basic cookery course for one year.

How / when did you become a tutor at the ABHTI?

I pursued a degree in Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta. When I returned to Antigua in 2010 there was an open position for a chef instructor, so I applied for the job and was successful.

What do you love about being a teacher?

One of the joys of being a teacher is when a student comes in with no knowledge of cooking and the kitchen, and after completing the course, s/he has obtained the necessary skills to go into the field. This shows that learning has taken place.

You are also a private chef – what does that involve?

Being a private chef entails confirming enquiries from guest and preparing a detailed customised menu. After the menu has been finalised we buy all the food needed. Based on the client(s) meal plan preferences we can prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We specialise in creating memorable and exceptional dining experiences for our clients.

What other services does your company provide?

The Perfect Chef also provides services such as bartending, butler/server, and stewarding services. We also cater for events such as weddings, parties, and business meetings.

What’s your typical day like?

A typical day involves getting all finalised menus together along with a requisition form. We then proceed to provisioning the chef(s) to go out to various villas and prepare meals.

Where do you get your ideas for new dishes?

I get inspiration for new dishes when I travel and merge them with my style of cooking to create something memorable for our guests.

Tell us about a meal you created that you are proud of.

In 2007 I entered the annual Allouette Cheese competition and placed second out of 100 participants. I would say that’s one of my more memorable meals.

Who are the chefs you admire and why?

I admire Chef Charlesworth Jeremy. He’s been a mentor and role model for me ever since I started my chef career.

What are your personal goals over the next five-10 years?

To own a fully-commercial catering kitchen that offers children and adults cooking classes and to be the premier private chef company in Antigua and Barbuda.

What do you love about Antigua and Barbuda?

It’s a tourism-driven destination which enables me to maximise my talent and skills as a chef.

What do you do on your days off?

I focus on my car rental service (Luxury Line Car Rentals) and my new business which I’m about to launch called Perfect Chef Entertainment.

I’m also fond of cycling.

Where do you go to eat on the island?

Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant at Ffryes Beach and the Captain’s Table in the Point Area of St John’s.

Describe yourself using three words.

Passionate, ambitious and kind.

What’s your motto / philosophy in life?

Work hard and dream big.

We can’t let you go without getting a recipe.

Which one of these recipes would your prefer? White truffe risotto with a beet beurre blanc, sautéed asparagus tips garnished with an aged balsamic reduction or mild spiced pickled coleslaw with pineapple chunks.

Click the link to see chef Kahyeme Benjamin’s recipe for mild spiced pickled coleslaw with pineapple chunks.

Contact Kahyeme Benjamin by visiting the Perfect Chef on Facebook.