Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haitian Alain Lemaire's love for cooking began with his passion for eating. "I have always been a fan of food, like HUGE!. Before the kitchen, the love was more towards eating the food than anything else. I initially got in the kitchen out of necessity. I hated the fact that I had to wait for meals to be served to eat, and because I had to eat whatever was being cooked that day." he shares.
Alain says at the time it was uncommon for men to be in the kitchen, and that posed a challenge for him as a young man wanting to learn the ways of cooking. "They teach us that women are supposed to be in the kitchen and men in the field bringing home the "bacon", which is senseless if you ask me. I had no clue if I would enjoy cooking at first, but I knew if I wanted to feed myself what I wanted and when I wanted it, I needed to pay attention to my mom and grandma when they were in the kitchen." he explained.
Needless to say, Alain's attentiveness paid off as his family and friends soon began enjoying his meals. "At that moment, I realized there was something there, but I had no clue what it was. I discovered that food was my calling as I attended culinary school." Alain recalls.
Classically trained and having had the chance to experience cooking in different settings and environments, Alain dabbles in different cuisines aside from Haitian dishes like Latin American, French, Italian, Asian, and Nigerian. His wide range of expertise in the cooking industry has led to incredible opportunities around the world and on the big screen.
"Food has brought me to places that I never imagined that I would've traveled to.
I consulted and drafted the menu and kitchen operations for a restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya, represented Haiti in Mexico at a traditional food festival, and catered at The Pentagon, Jamaica, and many other states in the United States."
In 2015, Alain appeared on his first-ever TV Show, Cutthroat Kitchen, a cooking elimination competition. Since then, Alain has brought his talents to other shows like Luda Can't Cook on Discovery Plus and Food Network's Chopped, where he gets to bring a taste of Haiti in the kitchens he finds himself in.
"Being able to showcase Haitian cuisine on such a level is nothing short of amazing. I love being able to promote our culture to the world and show them the beauty that we have to offer that goes beyond our beaches, mountains, and touristic sites. I was never a fan of competing or being in front of the camera at first, but it is like a drug. Once you taste it, you cannot get enough of it."
Alain says that the process for getting on these shows varies in the recruiting process. "You can either apply for the show, or they reach out to you. You fill out a form, interview over the phone to determine if you are a fit, and then go through zoom meetings, etc. The process of a standard cooking show will be different than that of a cooking competition one. Each time I was selected for a show, I was super nervous from the beginning until the end, even when the show aired." he shares.
As a public figure in the food industry, Alain says some of his most exciting opportunities have been cooking for Presidents Michel Joseph Martelly and Jovenel Moise, Naomie Osaka, and Kodak Black's Album release party.
Alain recognizes that his ability to connect with people through food is a great social teacher." Food is one of those universal languages that brings everyone together, regardless of their background, religion, or ethnicity. You learn so much from someone's culture through what and how they eat and why they eat it."
Having served Haitian dishes worldwide, Alain says he dos encounter many misconceptions about Haiti. "Some non-Haitians think that we live in huts or tents for strange reasons. Because of how our cuisine is commercialized outside of Haiti, people think that all of our dishes are fried or that we do not have vegan dishes at all. When in reality we have a very diverse and rich cuisine that French, Spanish, African flavors have highly influenced." he educates.
The chef dives more into these flavors with his Ou Manje Deja Pop-Up Dinner series. Ou Manje Deja is a dining experience hosted in different cities around the United States that focuses on Caribbean dishes.
Filling guests up with a multiple-course dinner and a night with vibes they won't forget, Alain's hope with Ou Manje Deja is to showcase Haitian cuisine and dining on a different level. "The term "Ou Manje Deja?" which translates to "Did you already eat?" is, to me, a love language, and every time I would hear someone ask that question, it would bring a smile to my face. So, we decided to relaunch our Pop-Up series under a new umbrella with more focus on the food, the vibes, and the emotional connections it brings." he explains.
The next Ou Manje Deja Pop-Up Dinner will be hosted in Boston on Saturday, July 30, 2022! Alain says he has a lot in store, including food service boot camps, mentoring programs, and some food shows in the works. You can keep up with Alain and all of his cooking ventures via Instagram.