Chef Jason Brathwaite. (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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Chef Jason Brathwaite appears shy. One can see him carefully selecting what he is going to say. His wife, Myra, is another matter. She encourages Jason and even finishes his sentences.
Jason’s shyness, however, is shrugged off when he dons his chef’s jacket and steps into the role of chef. In that mode, he is confident and assertive, and he speaks passionately about his craft. Jason becomes animated as he talks about his journey from dishwasher to head chef.
His training has been very much of the in-service type, having learned from chefs in the restaurants where he has worked.
“Each place was a different cuisine, being trained by different chefs who were in the industry long before I was. I wanted to learn as much as I could from them. I was thirsty.
“I actually worked my way up from washing dishes. I got tired washing dishes. I asked my boss at the time for a break and he moved me to the fryer. That’s how I got started cooking. I actually started working in restaurants while at Ellerslie [Secondary School], but I took a break to finish CXC examinations.”
After secondary school, Jason studied mechanics at Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (now Institute of Technology) but when he finished there, he was drawn to the kitchen once more.
“One of my cousins took me to the Dining Club and I gave cooking a shot again. It just went from there,” he said.
As his knowledge increased, so did his confidence, and Jason moved around in his quest to improve his skills. One accomplishment which brought a shy smile to his face was his appointment to the position of head chef for the lunch period at a restaurant.
Jason likes a challenge, and has entered Chef Of The Year competitions in order to match his skills against others always with a view to improving his craft.
Building experience in the kitchen eventually led Jason to opening his business Stix Catering Barbados.
“He kept talking about it and longing to do it, so I encouraged him to go for it. We started Stix with $8 and whatever else we had in the house,” said Myra.
“The concept for the business is for everything to be on sticks, but he can prepare anything. If a customer has a particular idea, he will work with it.
“Jason loves food. He is always passionate about food. He gives 120 per cent in whatever he does, and if it doesn’t come out how he wants, he is devastated. And the disappointment is only in his mind because the customers are always satisfied,” she said.
And why should customers choose Stix?
“I would try to make something out of nothing and make it exquisite.”
Unfortunately, carving out a niche in the catering market can be challenging as potential clients often prefer to go to big companies, but Jason insists he will keep trying.
“It’s first for him to realise that he is good. With that, he can build from there. He is always worried about capital but I told him to start small and build from there,” said Myra.
Being very community-spirited, Jason likes to share the cooking skills he has picked up over the years, and he works with students at his former secondary school on a weekly basis. He helps them to sharpen their knife skills and demonstrates how to plate dishes, among other things. He also shares trade tips with students in the Barbados Community College Hospitality Programme and other chefs.
He is also contracted by companies to utilise their products in meal creation for advertising purposes; and he creates five-minute meals for another client.
Jason’s next step is to continue growing his business Stix. He has also started working in a restaurant again in order to continue developing his skills. (KG)