A Dynamic Duo
Before a great chef can be an artist, he must first be a craftsman. And learning his craft requires experience in different kitchens under the guidance of savvy veterans. Here are a couple of Barbados top chefs who know each other very well, one a celebrated mentor, the other an apt apprentice now soaring on his own.
— By Timothy Dugdale and Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
Damian Leach opened Cocktail Kitchen in July 2016 and has been earning a solid reputation for locally inspired fine dining ever since.
After training in Barbados in culinary arts, he packed his bags for Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa. He then returned home to work at The Courtyard, The Cliff and finally Tapas, where he spent six years learning from Chef Franco Parisi. In 2016, he won Barbados Chef of the Year and Caribbean Chef of the Year, was awarded a Governor General’s Award of Excellence, and became a member of the Taste of the Caribbean Hall of Fame at the annual Miami competition. A double gold medal winner at the same event in 2017, Leach has also been invited to cook at events in New York, London and Washington, DC. When not winning awards, he can be found at his restaurant in the St. Lawrence Gap cooking Bajan-marinated rack of lamb and smoked breadfruit croquettes.
Birth place: Bridgetown.
Birth country: Barbados.
Favorite fruit: Dunks (a Caribbean fruit).
Favorite vegetable: Cauliflower.
Favorite spice: Cumin.
Favorite dish: Hard to pick one specific dish, but I love lamb.
Favorite wine: I do enjoy wine but I’m more of a whisky fan… Laphroaig 10 Years is my fav!!!
Favorite kitchen tool: Sous-vide immersion circulator.
Favorite food city: Chicago.
Favorite vacation place: Melbourne, Australia.
A chef who most inspires you: Grant Achatz.
Born in a small town nestled between the Alps and Milan, Chef Franco Parisi has a world’s worth of fine dining experience to his name.
After studying in Italy, he took a job at Zafferano Restaurant in Knightsbridge, England, helping perfectionist Chef Giorgio Locatelli earn a Michelin star. The long hours and hard work paid off when, five years later, Parisi opened his own highly-acclaimed Italian restaurant, for the same restaurant group. When the company was sold, he travelled to Australia, Spain and finally Barbados, where he worked for tennis player David Lloyd’s restaurants, La Bella and Mullins, before becoming executive chef at Lone Star. Seven years later, he opened Tapas with friend and partner Alfredo Giovine. Now, he has three Michelin stars of his own: his wife Cindy and children Mia and Luca.
Birth place: Gallarate, Varese.
Birth country: Italy.
Favorite fruit: Mango, berries and figs.
Favorite vegetable: Garlic, sweet peppers, mushrooms, asparagus…
Favorite spice: I love to work with fresh herbs, every single one has a distinct flavour that can totally change your dish, from basil to rosemary, sage, thyme, dill, coriander.
Favorite dish: Chefs don't really have favourite dishes, as cuisine can be so vast. I just enjoy good food, from Michelin-starred restaurants to a pizza place or street food. When you eat something that brings back memories from your childhood or from a place you visited, that is the best.
Favorite wine: Wine is like food: the smell, the taste, the colour… so much to pick from! When you have a great wine perfectly paired with what you’re eating, that makes it perfect.
Favorite kitchen tool: Besides my knives that come in all different shapes, I like a blender and chinois for my sauces, a manual pasta machine and mandoline. Every tool has a purpose.
Favorite food city: London, Chicago, New York, Sydney… so much to see, so much to try.
Favorite vacation place: I never stick to one place.
A chef who most inspires you: Giorgio Locatelli.