2016 – James Joseph was born in PAP and he moved to the US when he was 14 years old. He has been cooking for the last 5 years. His mother and his aunt are chefs too so cooking has been a passion for him since he was kid. He loves to eat and he considers himself as a foodie. Growing up his dream was to become a chef but life put him in other paths and he became a paramedic. He knew it wasn’t for him so he pursued his culinary dream. Winner of The Los Angeles Small Business Excellence Award and proud owner of Kitchen Bongou, currently living in LA, where he cooks for many famous people while making them fall in love with Haitian Cuisine one bite at a time.

  1. How long have you been cooking?
    • I’ve cooking for the last 5 years.
  2. Why did you choose to become a Chef?
    • I love to eat. I’m a foodie. Growing up with my mom cooking good food make me want to become a chef. When I was 6 years old my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I told him I wanted to be a chef and he was mad, actually really mad. In Haiti being a chef is not really something that your parents want you to be. So when I came to America, I started doing different things, including being a paramedic. But that didn’t workout for me. So finally I decided that I will become a chef. When I switched from paramedic to cooking, people thought that I was crazy. But finally I do what I love.
  3. What is your favorite food to eat? What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
    • My favorite cuisine is Haitian cuisine. Actually my favorite thing to eat is Diri blanc ak kalalou. Is my favorite thing to eat in the world.  But I don’t have a specific cuisine I cook, is pretty much what my clients ask for. If my client tell me what they want I will make it for them. I want to be good at everything else.
  4. What is your signature dish?
    • If you ask me what people like the most about my food I can tell you this. In LA people call me the Mac and Cheese guy. So everywhere I go people call me that. I love to cook Mac and Cheese with black truffles. That will be my signature dish. 
  5. What is your biggest accomplishment as a chef?
    • I feel like my biggest accomplishment is yet to come but I’m really grateful of where I’m going. Moving to LA and opening my business without knowing anyone there it was really an accomplishment for me.
  6. What one or two things you consider you have that set you apart as a chef?
    • Slow cooked red wine braised short rib.As a Haitian chef for me is just I’m not only cooking  in Haitian Cuisine I also cook French Cuisine, Italian Cuisine and modern american cuisine and with all that I put the Haitian flavor to them. All the spices we have and you can tell that it was made by a Haitian chef. I really try to enhance the flavor so when to take a bite of my food you feel like you are eating something.
  7. What is your biggest challenge?
    • Pwason Fri, I feel like when people talk about Haitian food or Haitian cuisine they don’t have a good idea about it. I don’t see Haitian Cuisine on TV, so I feel like I want to do something about it.  My biggest challenge actually is to bring Haitian cuisine to life. Bringing to the world to show this is what Haitian Cuisine is about. I want people to know what it is the way as they know about Mexican Food or Italian Food. I want to find a platform to show everyone what Haitian Food is. Most of the plates I’ve been doing are Haitian Food so I want to be able to bring to life Haitian Cuisine. I’m currently working on a documentary for Netflix to promote Haiti’s food and cuisine. I cooked for many famous people in LA including Soup Joumou which they really loved. And I was so happy about it.
  8. What would be your ultimate achievement?
    • I want to have Haitian Cuisine on top off the culinary world. I would love to open up a culinary school in Haiti and I’m looking forward to bringing Anthony Bourdain to Haiti and show him what we have. Also, my mother and I are working together to create a rubbing for meat (EPIS)  to sell them in website.
  9. What was the best advice you were ever given?
    • Mais ak BouletFollow my dream. Do things my way. I never went to school to become a chef. I met a chef here in LA and I told him, I’m going to live here and I will go to school. And he told me, Why would you go to school? For what? You are going to school to learn everything that I’m currently teaching you here in this kitchen. You will learn more in this Kitchen than in any other school and you don’t have to pay me any money. So I decided to do my own thing, my way and that’s how Kitchen Bongou was born. I’m following my dream.
  10. Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
    • Live your life without regrets. Do everything you want to do. Make sure not to hurt anyone one in the process but do what you want to do. You know, my father called me the other day to apologize to me. I was surprised. I wanted to know for what. So he told me that he felt he almost stopped me from accomplishing my dream of becoming a chef. He was talking to Sweetie Mickey about me. And he was really proud. He said to me, they are talking about my son. So live your dream.  Also, one of my dream is to Beat Bobby flay too!
  11. Do you feel that you are representing the Haitian Community? How does it feel?
    • I’m honored to be part of the Haitian community. I feel very grateful for that.
  12. What’s your favorite thing about being a Haitian Chef?
    • It gives me a special pride. I’m different from other chefs because I believe that Haitian cuisine gives me that thing special that sets me apart from others.
  13. Do you have any advice for Haitian kids or Haitian descendants that are pursuing a culinary career?
    • I will tell them, if that what you want to do, go a do it. Go and  become a chef.          Go for it.
  14. Will you share with us one of your favorites recipes?
    • Discover tips and recipes here
  15. Other personal information or experience you would like to share:
    • I was featured in LA Travel Magazine and it was a great thing for me.

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