South Florida and New Orleans share many culinary connections, namely Creole, a style of cooking chef Ron Duprat has spent his life learning and perfecting.
His drive to be the top Creole chef America stems from his youth in Haiti, learning in the kitchen under the tutelage of his grandmother, who was trained as a French chef. Living in poverty and going hungry as a youth was another motivating factor to becoming a chef. Since taking this path, Duprat has earned a long list of accomplishments that include several stints as an executive chef and even being selected as a culinary ambassador by the U.S. State Department.
Duprat received formal training at the La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and the Culinary Institute of American in New York City. He traces his roots to several South Florida restaurants, including stints at the Hollywood Beach Marriott and Latitudes Beach Cafe, also in Hollywood. Duprat's style is Floribbean, or what he describes as "Caribbean clashed with American."
His work has earned him appearances on several TV shows. Ever since starring in Bravo's Top Chef for several episodes, Duprat ended his tenure working for the man and is currently doing consulting work, traveling between his home base West Palm Beach, St. Thomas or New York City, among other places.
One of those places where he finds himself a lot is New Orleans, which he also considers his second home. Recently, Duprat was featured on Spike TV's Bar Rescue, brought in by host and personal friend Jon Taffer to revamp the menu at the Spirits on Bourbon in New Orleans, formerly known as the Turtle Bay. Spending a lot of time at home and in New Orleans, Duprat senses a familiar connection in food culture between the two areas.
Emerging as a culinary style in New Orleans several hundred years ago, Louisiana Creole began showing up on menus in Florida a short time later. Duprat is fascinated by the differences in Creole cuisine across both regions, particularly in New Orleans.
One of the main regional differences, he says, is seafood. South Florida Creole includes a lot of ceviche is heavy on grilling marinaded whole fish like snapper, flounder and sea bass, whereas Creole in New Orleans (and in Louisiana) contains an abundance of shrimp, mussels and crab claws combined with lots of spices. Duprat also says that the French Creole cuisine is more similar to the northern part of Haiti.
No offense South Florida, but Duprat may be a little bit particular to the Big Easy. New Orleans is hard to beat as a culinary mecca. For what it's worth, South Florida and New Orleans share a kinship that expresses itself in many ways through cultural elements such as food and music.
"New Orleans has the best seafood," Duprat said. "When I come to New Orleans, I'm coming home."
Duprat's plate is full with several projects. Between consulting and developing his own signature products, Duprat is working on another possible reality television show. His current endeavor is trying to get a TV reality show focused on finding talented chefs among a pool of minority chefs from across America. The concept is still in the works, but if all goes well he hopes to have it live by the Fall of 2014.
"We want it to be something productive and innovative," Duprat said. "It's not going to be about the drama as much as it is going to be about the chefs cooking their hearts out."