Chef Creole: How a Kid From Little Haiti Built a Seafood Empire
Despite the shabby settings and bargain prices, celebrities such as Atlanta hip-hop act Goodie Mob raved about the spot's fried snapper, griot, and stewed oxtail. Entertainment executives took notice. In 2006, Sejour and Major Minerz, a local production agency, began filming cooking shows about Caribbean fare.
billwisserphoto.com An employee at Chef Creole.
So when the Food Network came to town for a casting call, Sejour auditioned and made the cut. He says he flew to New York, charmed the bosses, and received a 30-page contract. The network offered him $50,000 for a cookbook and $4,000 per episode. But they also wanted the rights to the four episodes Sejour had already filmed with Major Minerz -- at no additional price.
Beneath all the numbers, a bigger problem also lurked. Signing with a major network meant Sejour would have to watch what he said, how he acted, and whom he called friends. "If I'm at my friend's house and the feds walk in there and arrest everybody, then I got to explain what to who? Because you're some big network? Because my public relations is shitting bricks? Ah, fuck you. I ain't got time for that shit," he says.
There's more to his reasoning than just camaraderie, though. The outspoken cook's criminal record includes marijuana possession, three counts of disorderly conduct, and one felony charge for child abuse. He bats away the felony allegation thusly: "The cops [had] nothing 'cause I didn't do nothing." And indeed, that charge, filed in 1997, was dropped in 1998. "Yeah, I've gotten in trouble a few times," he says. "But nothing's ever stuck 'cause I'm too slippery."
Armed with an offer from the largest food channel in the nation, he says he weighed his options and issued a bombastic counteroffer: $80,000 for each of his old shows. The network's answer was no. (Food Network declined to comment on its negotiations with Sejour.)
Despite the failed negotiations, the cook continued filming his own show, Chef Creole's Seasoned Kitchen. The pilot features appearances by Vivica A. Fox, Alonzo Mourning, and Dwyane Wade. Tropical tunes, swaying palm trees, and beachside babes in bikinis introduce his cooking segments, which were filmed on location in Key Biscayne, Morningside Park, and the Dominican Republic.
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