Rose-Anne Gabriel is a professional chef and caterer living in Canada. Born in Montreal, Gabriel moved to Haiti as a child, and returned to live in Canada in later years. She is the owner of Chefanista, a full-service personal chef company based in Montreal that serves clients healthy and delicious meals. Gabriel attests that some of her dearest food-related memories occured during holiday times in Montreal when she would help her mother make pen patat [potato pudding] and kremas [a coconut drink].
So you started cooking when you were…
I actually started cooking at the age of 4. During that time, my family was living in Haiti. It was there that I fell in love with the culinary world. The first dish I prepared was diri kole ak pwa ak poul—rice and beans with chicken—my mom was so proud.
At which point did you decide it was a must to pursue cooking professionally?
I never thought I would be doing this until I had my first child. My decision came out of my own struggle of balancing family life and professional life. It was the solution to my problem, which I later realized was a problem shared by many.
Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?
I can’t really say I’ve had major disasters, but rather kitchen fails. And those usually happen when trying out new recipes, such as using baking soda instead of baking powder or simply forgetting certain ingredients.
Who was the best cook you knew growing up?
It might sound cliché, but it has to be my mom. She’s not the typical Haitian mom. Growing up I called her “Haitian mom New Age”, as she exposed us to many different things.
And what was her specialty?
Her specialty was Italian.
You worked at the Fairmont Reine Elizabeth and the Ritz-Carlton in Canada. What were some of the lessons you learned while working at those two prestigious facilities.
I wasn’t a chef during those times. I studied Hotel Management, and during those years, I worked at management levels in various departments such as housekeeping, front office and outside catering. The most valuable lesson I learned was to have discipline in the midst of constant change. I love change, but in order to be effective you most be disciplined.
What advice do you have for home chefs?
The right seasoning can make the difference between an ordinary and a fabulous meal. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and herbs.
You once won an award from a young Canadian-Haitian entrepreneurs for your talents. As a food entrepreneur, what are some principles you’ve learned that you feel would be helpful for those following your path to know?
The first one is discipline, self-discipline is not always easy, but necessary to reach your goals. The second is perseverance. Just because you failed in the past, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It could be that the timing wasn’t right or that you needed to fine tune a few elements. Third, don’t ever forget what drives you.
And those wanting to become professional chefs.
The same principles apply to those who are looking to enter the world of the culinary arts. Your passion will help you surmount obstacles along the way. Discipline will get you through the rigorous training. And perseverance will help set you apart from the pack.
Do you think Haitian cuisine will come to be appreciated on a bigger scale in the future?
I believe so. There are more and more dedicated and passionate entrepreneurs appearing and opening fine dining establishments and catering companies.
When Chef Rose-Anne is outfitting a new kitchen, what are some of the tools she can’t do without?
My top three are, top quality knives, hand-held blender and mandoline.
Okay, this is a question that’s asked of practically everyone here. When was the last time you went to Haiti?
Wow, it’s been 23 years…way too long.
Where do you see your career going?
I will be gradually moving out of the kitchen and fulfilling a management position. I’m also working on a modern Haitian cuisine cookbook. And looking to market a few food products. Still have many projects I’ve had to postpone that I will be working on over the next few years. I’m not done yet!