Q&A with Stefan Spath, Executive Chef at Couples Resorts

Stefan Spath is the Executive Chef at Couples Resorts. He’s resided in Jamaica since 1999 and fully embraced the island life and his love for fresh and local Caribbean ingredients is clearly demonstrated in the food he creates. We coax him out of the kitchen to talk about spaghetti bolognaise, the creativity of cooking and the underrated vegetable that is pumpkin.

What was the first recipe you learned to make as a child?

For as long as I can remember I spent most of my time in the kitchen. My mother tells me that when I was seven-years-old I started making spaghetti bolognaise. I remember baking cakes every weekend from a very young age and at Christmas time I’d make cookies with both my grandmothers. That to me was more exciting than Christmas Day itself.

You currently live in Jamaica. What do you like to do when you’re not in the kitchen?

I like anything that has to do with creativity, especially painting [Stefan is also an artist]. I had fun designing and planning out all the renovations on my house. I am also really addicted to running. If I run I can at least eat all the food and I love to eat!

What inspires your cooking?

Definitely the creativity and being able to cook and make people happy. It’s a great way to bring friends together as well. I always cook at home and have friends over for lunch or dinner.

You’re also an artist. Does that creative side of your personality influence your dishes?

Absolutely. I believe in order to be a good chef you have to be an artist. The balancing of flavours, food presentation and arranging buffets requires a lot of creativity.

What are your three favourite ingredients?

Fresh and local ingredients are a must. I must say since living in the Caribbean I have come to like spice, so scotch bonnet and ginger for example. I absolutely love pumpkin. It’s such a simple ingredient and so underrated and under-used in European cooking.

If I was planning a wedding in the Caribbean, which dishes would you recommend? And which would you avoid?

I believe Caribbean food has to be light, with fresh ingredients and a good balance of vegetables and proteins. For a Caribbean wedding I would start a balanced appetizer such as smoked marlin ceviche with oranges and grapefruit. Then I’d make a pumpkin and roast plantain chowder followed by a tropical greens salad with fresh mango, crumbled feta, mint leaves and toasted walnuts. For the main course a Caribbean lobster or perhaps a wonderful beef tenderloin with ackee mushrooms and duxelles. For dessert, a trio of pot de crème – Blue Mountain coffee, passion fruit and coconut flavours.

What’s your signature Caribbean dish that everyone should try and get the most praise for?

I am proud to say there are a few but if I had to choose it would be cream of roasted pumpkin and plantain soup with ginger and slivers of spicy grilled jerk sausage. It’s a simple dish but by using fresh local ingredients it’s so delicious. I get requests for that recipe every week.