chef lemaire article
Did you eat already? oh, you haven’t yet? Yeah… I can definitely tell. You’re not you when you’re hungry, and although we don’t have a snickers bar to give you, fortunately we do know just the man to help with that dilemma. Chef Alain Lemaire, aka Mr. Ou Manje Deja, translated as Mr. Did You Eat Already, is the co-owner and Executive Chef of Sensory Delights Catering. Sensory Delights is a full service boutique-style luxury company that caters to weddings, social events and corporate events. Growing up as a young boy in Port-au-Prince Haiti, Chef Lemaire had no idea how dynamic and lucrative the culinary arts could be. He just knew that he loved cooking and he followed that love all the way to the U.S. That same love propelled him to new heights in his career and sparked his competitive spirit on hit shows like Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. He loves cooking so much that he’s willing to ask one of the most important questions there is: “Ou Manje Deja?” So please don’t be hangry, grab a bite to eat and allow us to introduce award winning Chef, Alain Lemaire.
RA: What was it exactly about watching your mother and grandmother cook that sparked your interest for cooking?
AL: The funny part is that it wasn’t really because I was interested in cooking. It was more because I wanted to cook what I wanted and when I wanted for myself. I love food so I wanted to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. So I would watch them cook, and then whenever I wanted to eat something I would just go and do it myself. I paid attention to what they were doing and little by little it became more of an interest. I started cooking for my friends and realized I can entertain with food, fell in love with doing that and the rest is history.
RA: At what moment did you say to yourself “Wow I can really cook.”
AL: I think I made the food for my birthday one time and my friends loved it. That’s when I knew I could do something in the industry. However, growing up in Haiti around that time, the culinary arts was not even mentioned or considered as a career. I had little to no guidance at all, but I just stuck to what I loved and what I wanted to do. I did not really know how fast the industry was and what you could do in the industry, until I moved to the states. I went to school in Florida and while I was in school I realized how big this was and I really got into it. I started learning more about the business and becoming who I really wanted to be as a Chef.
RA: You’ve competed on Food Network’s chopped and Cutthroat kitchen. What do you think makes you a great competitor?
AL: I’ve been a competitor since I can remember. Anything I get involved in, I’m always looking to be the best at it for myself. I don’t accept defeat easily, especially if I know I could have done better. I also like to test my limits against other people.
RA: It’s cool to see that as a chef you don’t have to just work in a restaurant. You cater events, do food festivals, consultations, food tastings and so much more. What’s your favorite thing to work and why?
AL: Everything has its own special stuff in it. For example, catering weddings and parties there’s always the unknown. I don’t care how much planning you do, there’s always going to be something that’s going to throw you off, which personally keeps me on my toes. I always have a plan A to Z and I think that also contributed to me being able to compete, because I’m always thinking and always getting myself ready. Aside from that, traveling and being involved in the festivals is also one of my favorites.
RA: What’s the best place you’ve been to?
AL: Ouuu, Kenya in Africa.
RA: How has your Haitian heritage influenced how you cook?
AL: My heritage influenced it tremendously. In the beginning, I didn’t want to be labeled as a Haitian chef. But then I had a conversation with a friend who said I should embrace it, it’s what
makes me different. I finally embraced it and ever since then I make sure that whatever I do, especially if it’s something that represents me, I incorporate my heritage. I always make sure to incorporate what I know, the foods I know, the flavors I know. Wether it be a traditional dish or a fusion or a modern twist of it.
RA: What do you attribute your success to?
AL: Hard work, dedication, patience. Being receptive to criticism and just being humble. Being humble in this industry is a big thing. You can’t act like you know everything because you’ll get serve real quick with a humble pie. The most important things would be humility, patience, and hard work.
RA: What would you want someone to cook for you on a first date?
AL: Ouuu, that is a very interesting question because us Chefs are normally doing the cooking. People always think it’s so difficult to cook for a chef, but in reality we’re so creative when we cook for others that when we cook for ourselves we’re like simpletons. We’ll get a nice bowl of ramen noodles or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that would do the trick. But if I wanted to choose, I would say some short ribs. I wouldn’t be picky about it though, because I know what it takes to cook for others. The amount of pressure and also the expectations people have. I know how it feels when somebody tells you your food is trash. I don’t want somebody else to experience that feeling, especially if the person isn’t a professional themselves.
RA: If you weren’t a chef today what else do you think you would be doing?
AL: I would either be in theater or in law.
Cover and feature photo by Maybeline Photography