Restaurant: Best Caribbean Cuisine
Cuisine type: Healthy, authentic Caribbean
Chef: Chef Pierrot Baptiste
Restaurant bio: Don't be fooled by the simple faÃ§ade outside this place. Once you step in the Best Caribbean Cuisine, the smells and soft tropical music will transport you to the Caribbean. Popular menu items include Creole Gumbo, Creole Red Snapper, Jerk Chicken, West Indies Oxtails, French Ribs, Curry Goat, Beef Legume and more. And if you don't know what to order, just tell Baptiste what you are hungry for and he says he will make you something special since everything he serves is made fresh to order. Baptiste also has a passion for healthy eating and has a "Eat Good Live Healthy" menu as well as vegetarian options.
"'Eat Good Live Healthy' means I use no salt, no grease and no starch in my food," he explains. "Everything is fresh; just like how I was raised to cook by my mother in Haiti."
Chef bio: Chef Pierrot Baptiste was born the youngest of nine children in Cap Haitian, Haiti. His mother, Therese, was a cook, so as the youngest child, Baptiste cooked many of the island's authentic dishes for everyone to enjoy alongside his mother. He says he began working with her at her restaurant when he was 6 years old.
"When I was 10 or 11 years old, I had to make joumou soup on Sunday," Baptiste says. "No one wanted it if I didn't make it."
He says Haitian cuisine originates from a blend of several culinary styles, including French, African, Taino natives and Spanish influence.
Baptiste arrived in the U.S. in 1990 and took several jobs to support his family in Haiti before taking a job with the city of Savannah in 1995. He worked for the city for 19 years before he was finally able to pursue his dream of owning his own restaurant.
In 2012, he finally found a location and opened Best Caribbean Cuisine with his partner, Tashawna Williams. As a native of Savannah, Williams combined her culinary skills with Baptiste's seasoned style to create a unique menu experience.
And Baptiste says he strives to makes his customers happy.
"I think you should treat customers like someone you're in love with," he says. "I want to make them happy with my food, so I put my heart into it.
"â€¦ My goal is to bring something big to Savannah. I want people to experience good food with good flavors."
Favorite Recipe: Creole Gumbo
Why: Baptiste explains Creole Gumbo is a dish that originated in Haiti and was brought to Louisiana when Haitians fled the island in the 1800s. "Creole does not mean spicy," he says. "The new generation added the Cajun spice to it. It's simple with a tomato base and with a lot of vegetables." He doesn't even add salt. "I let the ingredients speak for themselves."
CHEF BAPTISTE'S CREOLE GUMBO
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound frozen mussels
2 cups of cooked chicken sausage
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons flour
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Â½ teaspoon Old Bay (or to taste)
Â½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
Â¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 drops hot pepper sauce
1 pound okra, cut, cooked and drained (fresh or frozen)
3 cups cooked rice
In a heavy 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven, melt butter; blend in flour. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, over medium heat until medium brown in color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Add onions, red bell peppers, red onions and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Add tomato sauce, parsley, old bay, thyme, cayenne, bay leaf and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add okra, mussel, chicken sausage, and shrimp. Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until shrimp are pink and tender. Serve by ladling gumbo over mounds of cooked rice in deep soup bowls.