Posted on

Great Dane

Natanga Smith

Great Dane

Social Share

Calling his style modern, chef Dane Saddler loves creating seafood dishes because he likes the freshness and variety. For the second year straight, he was one of the local chefs at the Food & Wine And Rum Festival this past weekend, but he didn’t do any seafood dishes as part of his offerings.
“In creating my dishes for the festival I try to offer a familiar dish with modern inspiration, so this year I am doing my take on the classic surf and turf: A balsamic braised lamb with a Cajun shrimp served on a panko-coated sweet potato cake,” said, adding that his go-to ingredient is Cajun spice because it pairs well with so many dishes, fish, meats and vegetables.
Saddler has come a long way since migrating to Barbados from Jamaica at age eight, and taking home economics classes at Queen’s College. Little did he know he would be fielding offers from Food Network, starting his own business, and getting opportunities that have seen him travel to cook in different kitchens – teasing and tempting palates.
“Home economics was the easiest option for me [at QC] and I was good at it. I went to the Hospitality Institute. But it wasn’t until I went off to college [Johnson and Wales University in Miami to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management] that my passion for cooking really ignited. Partaking of the various cuisines in Miami and being in the cultural melting pot really opened my eyes.”
Back home after the Miami stint, the quiet, focused and creative chef worked for an international hotel chain. After some time he decided he wanted to widen his repertoire and expand his knowledge of cuisine and felt it was time to start his own business.
“I saw the need for a service to visitors to the island, locals and companies looking for private temporary chefs to cater to private events so that was the birth of Caribbean Villa Chefs. Now it has grown regionally, offering our services in two neighbouring island and we are looking to enter two more markets within the upcoming year. We offer private chefs for both short-and long-term placements, waiters, butlers, sommeliers and private cooking classes and catering services.”
“Managing the business is time-consuming, and dealing with people in various time zones makes it a bit harder. Since the busy season is during the Christmas break, the holidays are all working days. I haven’t spent a Christmas or New Year’s in Barbados is the last three years and prior to that I had to be at work in hotels for the last ten years.”
The 31-year-old dad of two said because of that he tries to carve out time with his family, since a typical day starts for him at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 1 a.m.
“Tyler [son, five] and Taiema [daughter, three] are energetic and they are attached to me at my hip, so whenever I am home my time belongs to them. My girlfriend Tamara is very understanding. I try to do most of my paperwork when they are asleep or at school because most evenings and weekends I am off working. When I have to travel for Christmas, we open gifts and have an early Christmas, so wherever possible I try to make time for the family. My interests now, beside the family, are mainly getting rest whenever I can and taking in a football game if the TV is free,” he said laughing.
Saddler, called the “Slim Chef” in his circle, has his hand in many pies, having just been a finalist in the reality TV show Bank On Me, doing a local cooking channel and waiting on a call back from Food Network.
“Last year I auditioned for Anne Burrell’s Chef Wanted show. There was some doubt about my eligibility and the need for a work permit, so nothing flourished from it but I was still pleased to be given the opportunity. During the audition, the casting director said jokingly, ‘You would do well on the show, everyone else is fat and balding, you would be ‘The Slim Chef’ and I am now known by that name. I have auditioned once more since the initial contact but I will get there someday soon.”
Saddler said he entered Bank On Me to use it to measure the potential Caribbean Villa Chefs had and to see the directions other professionals thought it should go and what the best course of action was to get there.
He is featured on some five minute meals for the Cooking Channel shown on CBC-TV: “I see any opportunity to showcase my skills and feature Caribbean Villa Chefs as a good marketing tool. I have since then built a fan base . . . . It’s a bit overwhelming at times since now I have literally no free time to myself.”
The Slim Chef is the only one in his family in the culinary field as mum Cheryl is a property manager, sister Dominique is finishing her law degree and dad was an attorney at law.
Saddler is comfortable in any kitchen – from a temporary make shift container with basic equipment at Jade Mountain St Lucia, to a state of the Art Kitchen in Sandy Lane, to a kitchen in a private villa in St Kitts that is stocked with more equipment than most hotels.
So what does a chef, who has cooked for the rich and famous, cook for himself?
“Curried chicken and rice is a regular. If I don’t want to spend long in the kitchen or am just too tired, some Chinese take out works well”, he said with a deadpan look, then bursts out laughing.