Nadege Fleurimond is a chef, business owner, author, and entrepreneur. Nadege lives in New York, and has been in love with cooking since the age of eight. Her Haitian culture, along with the influences of the taste of New York shaped her culinary point of view. Nadege's catering company, "Fleurimond Catering," catered notable events for the White House, BET News, New York City Hall, and her alma mater Columbia University.
Being in quarantine the past couple months kept us all in the kitchen more than what we would like to; but cooking the same old dishes can have your taste buds wanting to experience different flavors. Being in quarantine forced Nadege to reconnect with the kitchen, which led her to "cook up" a cookbook full of recipes worthy of spicing up the kitchen.
Nadege's third cookbook, "Taste of Solitude" has over 25 recipes that will take you on a journey of different flavors and cultures. The book is also full of lessons, thoughts and themes. Find out why purchasing this book will change the way you think about food, and why there's no reason to be afraid to explore a different culture through food.
Where did your passion for cooking come from? Is there any specific memory that stands out to you?
My love for cooking started at an early age. I learned to cook when I was eight-years old... from my dad. As I made all the different dishes that my dad taught me; I started getting lots of praises from family members and friends. Cooking was a bond that I shared with my dad. I also enjoyed seeing the camaraderie and joy that food brought in our home during many gatherings. Food, to me, became synonymous with gatherings and joy.
You cook traditional Haitian food, but you also cook different cuisines. What made you want to venture out from what I would call a "comfort zone," and incorporate foods from different cultures into your style of cooking?
Traditional Haitian food is what my soul connects to, because that's what I grew up eating; but growing up in New York exposed me to different cuisines and cultures, so I got to cooking! I went to a very diverse high school (Brooklyn Technical High School), so I had friends from all over the world and we always bonded around food. At a very young age, we would share foods from our different countries. I, then, started a student group in high school called "All Nations" for the strict purpose of connecting the different student groups and exchanging foods. Fusing cuisines was the natural course for me, but it’s still anchored in Haitian cuisine. It’s almost like your mother tongue. When you are upset, annoyed, or sad; you revert to it. So, while I love other foods; when I cook, I blend those flavors of passed connections, friends, travels, but with the flavors of Haiti.
Why start a catering company and not just work in a kitchen for someone else? Were there purposeful reasons for wanting to have your own company?
I’d love to say that I had this grand idea and set out to create a catering company with this great plan to make it what it is today, but that was not the case. My goal was to be a good Haitian/immigrant child; go to school, get good grades, and become a lawyer. Food was fun, and something I did as a hobby.
Catering was accidental, but I have a natural instinct for entrepreneurship. I can smell opportunities; and even better, I can usually create them. Thus, when I noticed that my friends in college loved my cooking and started asking me to cook for various student groups and events, I saw an opportunity to turn it into a great side hustle. Still not imagining I would be making a career out of it. Upon graduating college, the goal was still to go to law school. As luck would have it, my side hustle grew; and I also grew as an entrepreneur.
To answer your question, catering was more conducive to my mindset at the beginning. It is something I stepped into and when I wanted to. Most restaurateurs are very intentional in their endeavors.
After establishing your catering company, you catered many events including events for the White House, BET News, New York City Hall, and your alma mater Columbia University. In these moments, did you feel the risk of leaving your 9-to-5 job had all been worth it, and what has been your most memorable event to cater?
Each of these moments was a confirmation that I was on the right path. It’s not easy. I still come from a family that believes in traditional careers; such as, medicine, law, or engineering. Thus, explaining catering, writing about food, and doing discussions around food is not an easy task.
My two most memorable catering events were catering a Haitian flag day celebration at the White House and catering for Dr. Oz. They stand out, because it’s always a great feeling to know your work has gotten you to that level.
Now that Covid-19 has basically changed the way people run their businesses, how has the impact of Covid-19 affected your business and were you able to reinvent the way that you run your company?
I’ve always been an innovator. Catering is/was the bulk of how I earned my money, but over the years I always knew it was important to build a personal brand around food. That included books, speaking engagements and discussions on entrepreneurship as a whole.
COVID-19 made me realize the value of doing that, because catering came to a complete stand still. Because of the nature of my brand, I was able to develop an apparel line and write a book during the pandemic. My audience already knew me, and was receptive to it.
So, the pandemic has forced everyone to look at life in a different way. We cannot enjoy the simple joys, such as going out to dinner as easily as before. While everyone was forced to stay in and social distance, you decided to write your third and new cookbook “Taste of Solitude.” Being in solitude made you want to come up with new ways to spice it up in the kitchen?
Definitely! I have to be honest; prior to the pandemic, I was barely cooking anymore. I was doing two-to-three major catering events per month, and I had my catering staff. Cooking was no longer my main responsibility.
The pandemic forced me to reconnect to the kitchen. Quite frankly, I was very worried for my businesses. Thus, cooking became a sort of therapy and coping mechanism.
Another thing the pandemic did, was reconnect me with my base audience. Cooking online, via social media, really reminded me what I loved about food and why I do it. To connect with people, teach, heal, laugh, and live life with food as this amazing soundtrack to all those experiences.
When we open your cookbook, what can we expect to find? And why do you call it a "Culinary Journal?"
It’s a culinary journal because beyond the more than 25 recipes, there are also stories, lessons, thoughts and themes that sprung up for me during the last few months. Reminders of the kind of person I am, and strive to be. Lessons from friends and family. These are things that I believe can serve all who read the book. Many of us went through similar emotions of fear and uncertainty the last few months. But, many of us also reconnected with ourselves and our bigger purpose.
I share all these thoughts. Though the feelings, memories and lessons are shared through my experiences; they will connect with almost any reader.
What would you tell people that have not had Haitian food before, and are afraid to taste it or even feel intimidated to try to cook one of the dishes?
Haitian food is such a beautiful balance of flavors that the fear is only perhaps of the unknown. But, I have yet to meet anyone who has had Haitian food who didn’t like it! It’s not overwhelming in any one direction; just a beautiful mélange of the various cultures (Taino, Spanish, African and French) that have touched our history.
The intimidation exists, because we do still maintain a lot of the traditional ways of food preparation in terms of utilizing fresh ingredients, peeling all vegetables ourselves and stewing meats etc. At the end of the day, it’s all manageable once we move beyond the thought or visual of what we see to actually doing it. Then we realize it’s not that bad.
Being in New York is like being mixed in a bowl full of all different cultures and styles. Do you think that New York has been an influence on how you cook or how you might give a twist to a traditional Haitian dish?
Definitely! New York inspires my food, clothes, and everything! Such a vibrant city where there’s so much variety. As a creative, I pull from all places.
What is your favorite dish from the cookbook?
That’s like asking a parent who her/his favorite child is. I can’t just pick one. But, I love the black rice paella; a beautiful mélange of cultures. Haiti meets Spain. I love the breadfruit au gratin. I love the Beignets, the Passion Fruit mojito. I love quite a few dishes (lol).
What recipe from the book would be the perfect date night dish?
I would say go for a complete meal. Start with the arugula and grilled corn salad or the squash bisque, followed by the baked snapper with some coconut white rice; and end with the beignets, and passion fruit mojito.
You also have an apron line. Why was creating an apron line so important to you, and will there be any other kitchen must haves coming out within your kitchen line?
I have always wanted to create an apron line. The idea came to me a few years back during a trip to Haiti. The visual of seeing the Haitian Carabella denim/chambray traditional dress just stayed with me. Thus, I wanted to create something that aligned with my work and brand, but paid homage to that.
Working on various things. The pandemic really gave me the time to define the direction I wanted to take my business. Catering will remain, but I want to develop that close relationship with my audience through my cooking show and providing products that will help them in the kitchen.
What is next for Nadege Fleurimond? What other plans are you cooking up?
The book and ensuring that it does the work I intended it to do. Help people in the kitchen broaden their cooking horizon with the recipes, and uplift with the worlds and stories shared.
Eventually I want to spend some time developing a more formal cooking show to stay connected to my audience.
To purchase A Culinary Journal /Taste of Solitude, visit https://roariorshop.com/
Follow Nadege on Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/nadegefleurimond/