Culinary Q&A w/Chef Kerline
Curious about who's behind the magic simmering on stove, bubbling in the oven, whirring in the blender, chopping in the food processor and drying in the dehydrator? Well, wonder no more!
What’s your signature dish?
Honestly - I don’t have one. I’ve been asked this many times in different ways. It’s like asking me which one of my children I love more. My signature is on all my dishes. My palette doesn’t play favorites. Often whatever dish I’m making at a given moment in time, is given MY moment in time. I do have staple ingredients (coconut milk, thyme, olive oil, onion, and garlic) that could be considered signatures. These ingredients can transform (and do) any dish into a fav. Because each of these staples take me somewhere magical and the dish in the making is the destination, these ingredients are my transports of choice.
Describe one of your best food memories…
An isolated memory - really?! You might as well ask me to physically extract an ingredient already baked into a dish. Ha! If I must - here is my extraction.
I was visiting an older woman in Marin who really took to me when I worked at a nonprofit in San Francisco. She invited me to her home that was surrounded by the most enchanting garden I’d ever been through. Apples teemed from their limp branches unwilling to fall yet even more unwilling to stay. “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”, rang melodically in my head, instead the words were, “Radishes, squash, dandelions, oh my!”.
She guided me through this mazy botanical and we arrived in her front yard where she kneeled down to touch and feel these green stemmy things that looked like parsley growing from the ground. They weren’t. They were carrots, still in the ground! She said, “Pull it out”. The first tug upward was unsuccessful. She said, this 85 year old svelte woman, “Put your back and some muscle into it!” I did. And it...was...orgasmic. I’d never felt such an exhilaration, this momentous feeling of what a midwife must feel like to catch babies. I felt like a life had gone through its gestational cycle and I pulled it from its womb safely. She gifted me several things from her garden that day. I went home and made it all and dined with community.
What tips do you have for people who want to become better cooks?
Do it as often as you can. It is the old tried and truth of practice makes perfect. My passion and aptitude for cooking discovered me – not the other way around. At first, I did it because I had a tribe of hungry kids who ate ALL the time and it bloomed into something I did because I genuinely loved it. The other thing is to not be afraid to try new things. Exploration will allow you to evolve as a cook and as person.
Who are some of your culinary heroes or role models?
Chef Gordon Ramsey is my DUDE! In addition to the fact he is a fellow Scorpio, I just appreciate his culinary swag and his business savviness. Chef Ron Duprat is a fellow Haitian compadre. He started as a dishwasher, put himself through culinary school, and when he began managing teams, his priority was to develop his team first. Chefs are stars but the team around them are galaxy that make their shine truly glow. I hold the same value. Last but certainly not least, Rock Harper. Call me a sucker for rags to riches stories because I am. I watched him literally brawl gracefully through Hell’s Kitchen. When it came to the day where both competing chefs stood behind the infamous door where only one knob turned, I joined the many viewers who all wanted so badly for his knob to turn, as if Rock were their husband, brother, or uncle. And when it did – I couldn’t have been more proud.
If you could make a meal for anyone – dead or alive – who would it be and what would you make?
I’ve cooked for so many amazing souls. Additionally, I revere and adore so many people – dead and alive. If I had to choose, it would have to be for a group of three of my ancestors – my brother who was murdered 8 years ago, my grandmother who I never met, and my father who I’ve never met. I’d give them me on a plate – Haitian-American queer mother who loves the eclecticism of the world. Diri Kole, coconut curry Thai soup, a raw strawberry cheesecake, and blackened salmon with sage and thyme. I think they’d all say well done. And this would set my heart to rest in happiness eternally.