Get to know 'Gotta Have Khiah''s Khiah Cameron

June 23, 2015

Today I am going to feature a fellow Caribbean foodie who has embarked on a journey to provide amazing food to people who just are not able to prepare them themselves for whatever reason. Meet Khiah of "Gotta Have Khiah", a fellow foodie based in South Florida

Gotta Have Khiah

From the moment she received her first cookbook, "My Learn to Cook Book"  by Ursula Sedgwick, Khiah knew she wanted to prepare and serve exciting, delicious food. Though born in Brooklyn, NY, Khiah was raised on the twin isle Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a country that combines strong culinary influences from Africa, Asia, and Europe with a lust for life attitude, to create a flavor and lifestyle that is uniquely Trinidadian and Tobagonian.

Gotta Have Khiah
Mini Guinness Truffle Cupcakes
With skills which were mainly self-taught, and honed with a Culinary Arts Certificate earned in 2009 from The Art Institute of New York City, Khiah progressed from preparing single dishes for family gatherings to catering intimate events, to designing weekly meal plans for busy family and friends. Seeing the impact of serving appetizing, well prepared, visually stimulating food gave Khiah the extra push to leave corporate America behind to pursue her passion full-time.

A good meal must stimulate all the senses; starting with the colors and aroma of the meal when first presented, to the mouth feel of each bite, to that "hmmm" sound that comes after finishing the last tasty morsel. It is to this end that Gotta Have Khiah's mission is simple; to use the best ingredients to create a culinary experience that feeds the body and mind through the senses, leaving you craving more.

1. How would you describe your cooking?

A simple, yet difficult question for me at the moment. Many of the dishes I present are usually prepared using the basic French technique, with a Trinidadian twist here and there.  Honestly, I'm still seeking to find that "je ne sais quoi" that defines my cooking. However, what I can say emphatically, is that when I prepare food, I try to make sure I feed as many of the senses as I can. Sight, sound, touch, smell, and especially, taste.

2. Are you a trained chef/cook or do you just have a "sweet hand"?

A bit of both, really. As a child, I always had an affinity for cooking and remember trying to prepare all the recipes in my first cookbook - "My Lean to Cook Book."  Mrs. Cumberbatch's Home Economics class at Bishop Anstey High School was where I received my basic "training". In 2009, I received my Certificate in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of NYC and also had the opportunity to intern (or stage) at one of the premier Trinidadian restaurants in Brooklyn, SUGARCANE.

3. How did you get your start as a personal chef?

This all started with family asking me to cater small events; not just to bring one dish.  Eventually, it progressed to requests for weekly meal plans, or to present multi-course, plated dinners. This got me asking myself why in the world wasn't I doing THIS for a living? That is when I decided to take the leap, leave my professional life as an Administrative Assistant, and make a career out of doing something I love every day.

7 Minute Eggs with Asparagus Prosciutto Soldiers
4. What one ingredient is a must have in your kitchen?

Lord, just one? At least five come to mind. However, if I absolutely had to choose, it would be to always have a good EVOO in the pantry. Right now, we're going through gallons of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil at home. It has wonderful body without being heavy and brings a subtle, authentic green olive taste to dishes.  I swear, roasted vegetables taste so much better!

5. What is your favorite dish/meal to eat?

(Again with having to choose just! ) Curry Crab 'N Dumplings.  I can recall the first time I had this from Miss Jean (RIP) on Store Bay in Tobago. This was ages ago, back in the 80's when the chef herself still made the dish.  For the life of me, I cannot seem to be able to recreate the taste nor the feelings I had after enjoying this dish. Of course, I have my own version, but Miss Jean's was the one that planted the memory. That perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and the beach.

6. What is your favorite dish/meal to cook?

At present, my "GHK Fish Balls." I don't think I've ever had a bad batch, they're a great hit with everyone; I just really enjoy making them. They're ridiculously crunchy, light in texture, and beautifully golden, with flecks of color from the vegetables. Usually, I use tilapia and mince the fish by hand as opposed to using a food processor, which tends to give the fish a more mushy texture. I also brunoise the vegetables so that each little bite has just the right balance.

7. Why private chef and not a restaurant chef?

Actually, I'm neither. A Private Chef usually works exclusively for one family, and may even live on the client's premises. I'm a Personal Chef, which means I provide services to  many individuals/families; grocery shopping, meal plan depending on needs, likes, and dietary requirements, then I prepare these customize menus in clients' homes for them to enjoy later. Personal Chefs also provide in-home catering for events.

After working for so many years as a Project Coordinator and Admin Assistant, the decision to pursue the path of intimate catering, though scary, was the most liberating feeling I'd had in a very long time. Don't get me wrong, after being an employee, the transition to working for myself is hard and challenging, but I wanted to be my own boss and set my own schedule, therefore being able to prepare meals for folks in a more relaxed atmosphere was very appealing. Whether it is getting to know a family or an individual though their food likes and/or needs, or being able to be part of a special gathering of friends and family bonding over great company, great conversation, laughter and delicious food. Preparing and serving food is truly my pleasure.

Tropical Chicken Salad Wrap

8. What is your favorite food memory?

See #5. After a day on Store Bay, a trip to the Nylon Pool, and helping the fishermen drag nets of Jacks ashore, a stop at Miss Jean was always in order.  Great times.

9. Favorite kitchen gadget?

Besides my chef's knife, though, that's more of a tool, I love, love my Presto deep fryer. No guess work on whether the oil is hot enough. Not having to adjust the temperature up or down so that items, for example, the GHK Fish Balls, are all the same golden color. I don't even mind paying an extra bag charge for a weekend gig out of state just so that I have my fryer...I'm lugging it with me.

10. Where do you see yourself in the business in 5 yrs?

In 5 years the mission will continue to be to serve eye-catching, delicious food, with a more solid statement of what the GHK brand represents; the type of cuisine, the style, and the essence that sets it apart.

Pepper Shrimp Poppers
Yum. Aren't these pics amazing?

Take some time and learn more about Khiah. Check out her facebook, instagram and twitter.

Renz HomeMadeZagat
Renz HomeMadeZagat

Hi guys, I’m Renz. I am the chief cook and bottle washer here at HomeMadeZagat. I am here sharing Caribbean recipes that I grew up eating and new ones I’ve fallen in love with over the years. I just want to showcase the amazing diversity of Caribbean food and that everyone can recreate these dishes.