Focus on a personality: Junior Saintil
Meet Junior Saintil, he’s the sous-chef at Spiga, an Italian restaurant in Grand-Case.
He was born in Haiti and raised in St. Martin from the age of seven. This bright young man is the epitome of calm and precision
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I’d say from the age of 10 I knew I wanted to cook, I decided to become a sous-chef later on. My mom always made me taste her cooking, she’d send me to purchase the groceries. She let me explore around the kitchen and thought me a lot of things.
What is your favorite food memory?
My mother in the kitchen preparing different stews.
Where were you trained?
I trained right here in St. Martin at the Lycée Polyvalent des îles du Nord, I also trained in many different restaurants on the island, in Saint Barth and Guadeloupe. I stayed in Saint Barth for a month for training at Sereno Hotel with Chef Jean-Luc Grabowski, I was the only one in my class who was willing to go. It was hard and stressful but I learned a lot. I would like to encourage all persons who aspire to going into cooking to leave the island at some point and gather as much experience as possible.
What’s your favorite kitchen equipment?
My specialty is pasta, so I’d say my pasta machine! I’m actually working on incorporating local products to pasta dishes.
What’s your funniest kitchen mishap?
It was during my training…I had to prepare steak for one of my teachers, and I used sugar instead of salt! A good thing I had tasted it before, always taste your food before serving it, that’s when I learned that. My teacher was rather comprehensive but all my fellow classmates started laughing.
What is your favorite ingredient?
Plantain without a doubt. It’s an ingredient that can be prepared in so many different manners.
What is your favorite dish?
My favorite dish is the one that I prepared for the San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Caribbean Jr Chef. I love fish, snapper more specifically.
Tell us about this contest?
There were pre selections on island before. When I spoke about it with my chef he first told me that we were not taking part. Then finally he told me that we were selected. The preparation was really thorough, there was a lot of information that had to be sent out beforehand. Once I was sure of what I wanted to present, I proceeded to confirming that the necessary ingredients would be available. My first disappointment was when I was informed that I would not be able to get any fresh red snapper, so I had to readjust my dish using mahi-mahi. This fish is a little drier that the snapper. Finally, a few days before I got the call that I would get what I requested. I was really happy about that! There were some other mishaps, like I didn’t get the quantity of fish I wanted but I didn’t loose hope and made it work. We had to prepare our dish for the 7 judges, 10 vips and 29 other invited guests. So I made smaller portions for the judges and something slightly different for the vips and invited guests using plantain and fish tartar. All judges loved my signature dish and that’s why I won the People’s Choice Award. Over all I truly enjoyed this experience, I would encourage any aspiring cooks to get involved in contests like this.
Head out to the Spiga in Grand Case to sample some of Junior Saintil’s creative cuisine!