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25922: Hermantin(News)Haitian chef opens cozy cafe featuring his homeland's cuisine (Miami)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Haitian chef opens cozy cafe featuring his homeland's cuisine
By Deborah S. Hartz
Posted August 4 2005
Pork Griot (twice cooked pork) with Piclise (spicy slaw) and pressed plantains.
Whole snapper braised with sweet red peppers in a buttery sauce served with
boiled green plantains. A pheasant cooked in red wine sauce or perhaps a plate
of penne with chicken, tomatoes and pepperoncini studded with black olives.
That's what Wilson Gayo, 36, dreams about.
And making these dishes at his Pines Café in Pembroke Pines is his dream.
A graduate from the Florida Culinary Institute of West Palm Beach in 1992, Gayo
has worked in private clubs including the Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale and
Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina.
Only recently did he and his wife, Michelle Lamont, open their storefront
eatery that seats 24 people in a cozy atmosphere of lantern light and oil-cloth
Of course, the whiteboard menu had to have Haitian dishes on it. "That cooking
is in my blood," says Gayo, who was born in Haiti but came to Naples with his
godmother when he was 11.
And because the French have a strong influence in Haiti, and he studied French
cooking, he put some French items on the menu, too. "I put my own flair into
them," he says.
He worked with Italian chefs so he put a taste of that cuisine on the menu as
"Florida is a melting pot so I didn't want people to have to go to an Italian
place to get pasta," he says.
In his tiny kitchen on this hot summer morning, he choreographs his cooking
like a dance. Moving from the stainless steel table where he chops, minces and
slices with his mandoline, he goes to the six-burner behemoth where he braises
a whole snapper, simmers the pork butt that he'll later fry crisp into griot
and boils the green plantains. Later, he whips up a pasta dish "a la minute."
In his smiling eyes you can almost see the young man working as a busboy at the
Eagle Creek Country Club in Naples. "I was inspired by the way the club's Chef
Kenny did flavors and presented the food. Anything he touched he turned into an
art piece," says Gayo, recalling one of his first jobs as he slices carrots
into gaufrettes to garnish his plates. "Without the carrot garnish, a plate
looks naked, too plain," he explains demonstrating his mentor's influence on
Chef Kenny must have recognized raw talent because he promoted Gayo to cook in
the club's kitchen, where he poached whole salmon and garnished it with capers,
lemons and hard-boiled eggs for display on the seafood buffet. When Gayo
mentioned he would like to go to culinary school, it was Chef Kenny who helped
him get admitted.
After graduation, Gayo returned to work in Naples. By 2000 he had made his way
to South Florida where he was buying used restaurant equipment and storing it
in his garage. Driving down Pembroke Road, he saw a storefront for rent and by
April 2003, he had signed a lease and had a place to put his equipment and his
Today, Wilson and Lamont, a legal secretary, run the Pines Café. "I like owning
my own business. In America, if you have the desire and ambition, you can
succeed and make your dream come true," Gayo says.
Pines Café, 6813 Pembroke Road, Pembroke Pines, 954-963-9499.