St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Johnson & Wales, North Carolina
Kitchens across U.S. & St. Croix
The Stridiron Group
U.S. Virgin Islands
2014 Chef of the Year
Caribbean Tourism Organization
U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
Welcome to the second installment of “Yes Chef!”, our series of interviews with of the culinary masters of the Caribbean. Today we feature the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s 2014 Chef of The Year, Chef Digby Stridiron.
Born in St. Croix, Chef Stridiron recognized his passion for the culinary arts at an early age and started his journey while in high school. After serving in The United States Air Force and later attending Johnson & Wales University in North Carolina, Chef Stridiron returned to St. Croix in 2007 and became Chef de Cuisine at The Shores Restaurant. While there, he also served as personal chef to celebrities including actress Vivica Fox and NFL player Kerry Rhodes, and eventually went on the road with musical artists Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. Chef Stridiron is currently working on his first book about molecular gastronomy, and his signature haute, new-world cuisine with a West Indian twist.
EAT The Caribbean: When did you realize that you wanted to be a Chef?
Chef Digby Stridiron: I always had a passion for creating things with my hands when I was young. Anything artistic – from ceramics to painting – I was instantly glued to it. Food has always kind of been that thing for me. Using my knife, creating flavors and bringing them together with others, folding pasta, sourcing the best ingredients, plating are all forms of art and you can bring them all together in minutes! It’s exciting and I get to watch people sit together and enjoy themselves. Families, friends, lovers; food has brought people together from the beginning of time. It’s nostalgic to us. Coming together around food to celebrate is a part of who we are. As a child we always had dinner at the table; spending time.
Food has always brought me the most joy. While in high school I got a job at the Buccaneer Beach Resort as a bellman. Once I met the chefs and saw the kitchen I knew exactly where I wanted to be.
ETC: You spent a few years in the United States Air Force. How were you able to stay passionate about cuisine while you were serving?
DS: I did a lot of cooking at home and at gatherings with my fellow airmen. Read books and things of that sort. The military actually played a big part because it introduced me to Southern and Arcadian foods and Korean foods that I wouldn’t have gotten to see.
ETC: How do you describe your style of cooking?
DS: Contemporary West Indian. I feel being a West Indian is who we are as a nation of islands. I try from a more historical approach. Combining the local bounty with high level techniques and standards. Finding new ways to incorporate fruits like Mamey, Sapote, Star Apple and more.
ETC: What other chefs, Caribbean or otherwise, have influenced you most? How?
DS: As far as chefs my mentor Brandon Mcglamery and Norman Van Aken where my biggest culinary influences. Lately, my inspiration has been the West Indies.
The high mountains of St. Thomas and slopes of St. Croix. The sea-moss on the shore are all starting to become a part of my style when I plate.
ETC: How would you describe the state of Caribbean cuisine and where do you see it going?
DS: I think Caribbean food is doing well and is on the rise. I know the low country/ Florida cuisine is forthcoming but I think we’re coming very soon. How many places can you serve dragon fruit, guineps, chayote, sorrel and slipper lobster at a local farm to table dinner?
ETC: Do you cook at home, and if so, what is your favourite dish to prepare?
DS: Farm Eggs! Anything with farm eggs!!!
ETC: What is the most under-appreciated or overlooked ingredient that you are a fan of?
DS: Crucian locus and egg fruit!
ETC: Can you tell us more about The Stridiron Group?
DS: It’s a company I started with the vision of promoting good food and healthy and responsible sourcing. We’ve been working with numerous charities and foundations with a goal to set up scholarship funds and internship programs through out the islands.
ETC: What’s next for Chef Stridiron?
DS: As of right now we recently broke ground on the forthcoming restaurant “Balter!” I’ve been working a lot with some television media and tourism. I’ve also been setting up a series of dinners throughout different cities, collaborating with other chefs I admire.
Thank you Chef Stridiron for a great Q&A! Stay tuned for more culinary conversations with the best and brightest chefs of the Caribbean right here on EAT The Caribbean! If you’re a chef, or know of one we should interview, connect with us on Twitter and let us know.