January 20, 2010 | 7:12am
These past few days have probably been tough for Ron Duprat, executive chef at Hollywood Beach Marriott's Latitudes Beach Cafe
, former Top Chef
contestant, and Black Culinarian Alliance
chairperson, now that his homeland is a mess of rubble. But images from his childhood still give him comfort and serve as constant inspiration. "Some of my earliest memories are of cooking alongside my grandmother in Haiti," he recalled in a press release. "The unique tastes, smells and feelings created alongside my grandmother are things that cannot be taught in a sterile classroom... Food is not only designed to nourish us, but [also to] serve as lifelong memories."
"I went hungry a lot of time as a youth," Duprat continued. "And so what inspired me to become a chef is that I came to see it as a way out of poverty. I came close to starving many times."
Duprat was trained in classical French technique in Europe, South America and Florida and took apprenticeships in Spain, Italy, and Brazil. New Yorkers may remember him from his gig at Montauk Yacht Club in the Hamptons, but most of us learned about the jovial, larger-than-life chef watching him whip up everything from jerk bass to lobster cocktails on television. And based on his responses to our interview, he seems he has forgiven Michelle Bernstein
for being one of the judges responsible for making him "Pack his knives and go
New Times: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?
Ron Duprat: Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, President Obama and the first lady, Oprah Winfrey, Al Gore. All sitting at one table. I would cook a rabbit loin, oxtail ravioli, bacon and banana ice cream.
NT: What was your most embarrassing cooking-related moment?
RD: I couldn't deconstruct a paella on national television.
NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?
NT: Describe your best or worst dining experience.
RD: Best: Michy's
in Miami. Me and my entourage went there for dinner. The service was excellent, we were greeted right away, the server was very knowledgeable about all the food items on the menu, and the food was superb.
NT: If your significant other gave you a pass, what celebrity chef would you most like to enjoy a naked cooking session with and why?
NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?
RD: Beyonce, "Put a Ring On It."
NT: Which famous chef, alive or dead, would you like to shadow for a day (assuming you haven't already had the chance)?
NT: What is your dream culinary trip?
RD: Hunting kangaroo in South Africa.
NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...
RD: A politician.
NT: What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen?
NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?
RD: New York street food.
NT: Aside from any restaurants you own, work at, or have interest in, which South Florida your favorite and what do you like to order there?
Michy's: short ribs, bread pudding
Steak 954: scallops, ragu beef
Asia de Cuba: EVERYTHING
D. Rodriguez: EVERYTHING (Editor's note: Chef Doug Rodriguez is behind OLA Miami and D. Rodriguez Cuba)
NT: Without naming the person, what three words would you use to describe the worst celebrity chef alive today?
RD: Rude, dumb, ignorant.
NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that is...
RD: Skinny! LOL