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9830: King of the Sea: Haitian-style seafood (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Published Sunday December 2, 2001
LINDA BLADHOLM, THE ETHNIC EXPLORER
King of the Sea: Haitian-style seafood reigns at Wilkinson Sejour's Chef
What looks like a nautical-themed drive-through on West Dixie Highway in
North Miami turns out to be a Creole seafood shack in what was once a Carvel
ice cream store. Owner-chef Wilkinson ``Ken'' Sejour has grabbed his native
Creole cuisine by the fishtail and created Haitian seafood for the masses.
Sure, there's queue boeuf (oxtail stew), barbecued ribs and fried chicken,
but the main draw at Chef Creole is spiced-up seafood, big time -- you can't
miss the mural on one wall with the small fisherman reeling in a huge blue
marlin. Inside, seaweed and fish swim on the walls.
Born in the Bahamas to Haitian parents, Sejour grew up in Miami where his
father ran a fish market and also cooked his catch. ``I was raised in the
environment,'' he says.
In 1992 he and his late brother opened the first Chef Creole in Little
Haiti, with the idea of making Haitian food accessible to everyone through
seafood. The concept flew but the original restaurant burned down. Sejour
and his wife, Rana, opened the current place in August 1999.
Testimony to the joint's popularity is the ``counter of fame,'' where snaps
of stars like Lauryn Hill and Erika Badu plus rappers du jour are under
glass. (Sejour caters to the nearby Studio Circle House, and sometimes the
musicians drop in after hours.)
Less famous fans pour in during lunch periods at nearby North Miami Senior
High -- the kids come for the $2 barbecued chicken special (students only).
``I eat here every day,'' says 16-year-old Steven Gabrat. ``It beats the
rest and it's worth the risk of being late.'' (They only have 30 minutes to
Worth anyone's trip is the $10.95 combo plate -- a generous tangle of
breaded and fried conch, half a dozen steamed shrimp in Creole butter sauce,
fried plantains, a mess of riz et pois colles (red beans and rice) and green
salad. There's also grilled or fried lobster tail (or get it in butter
sauce); whole fried grouper with the works; chicken stew; poisson gros sal
(fresh snapper in a salty-spicy butter sauce) and legume, or veggie stew, a
thick reduction of cabbage, carrots, chayote squash and onions seasoned with
parsley, thyme and spices, served with your choice of crab, shrimp or stewed
Another favorite is lambi en sauce, morsels of conch tenderized to
submission by boiling it in its own juices and served ``stained'' (dark) in
a brownish-red sauce of Scotch bonnet, onion, garlic and green peppers plus
This is ``the Mom and Pop of cooking,'' Sejour says -- using the natural
essence extracted by boiling seafood or meat in its own juices. ``You are
not supposed to taste any one ingredient. It's like music -- can you hear
the notes or do they harmonize? My food harmonizes.''
The key to Haitian cuisine, he says, is the sauces, like his super-strong
marinade, browned butter sauce and pikliz, a pungent-hot blend of vinegar
and sour orange juice floating with what innocently looks like coleslaw but
is laced with bits of fiery Scotch bonnet pepper.
Another reason to drop in or cruise the drive-through is the seafood
platters (lobster tail, conch, shrimp and fish), fried wings and cold conch
salad, a sort of ceviche of tender conch chunks ``cooked'' in a citrus bath
with chopped tomatoes and onions. Saturday soup, served only on Saturday, is
also called ``seafood lover'' as it brims with lobster, crab and shrimp plus
chunks of yam, potato and malanga.
You can also pick up a bottle of homemade cremas, a creamy, eggnog-like
blend of coconut, condensed milk and rum, best served over ice and available
Sejour, who is married to his high-school sweetheart and the father of five,
is as at ease with 10-month-old Hanna on his lap as he is in the kitchen
stewing conch or stirring a secret sauce. He also caters and has delivery
Chef Creole, 13105 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami; 305-893-4246; 11 a.m.-10:30
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