19. Chef Creole: Little Haiti Legend
New Times' Best of Miami 2014 issue arrives June 19. To celebrate, Short Order is paying tribute to Miami's culinary all-stars. These people forged our city's food scene into what it is today -- a thriving amalgam of tastes and cultures. Through their insight and talent, they've given the city a unique flavor and paved the way for bright new chefs and restaurateurs to follow their lead and take the Miami food scene into the future.
Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Wilkinson "Ken" Sejour has been feeding Miami's craving for Caribbean cuisine for more than 20 years. Born in the Bahamas to Haitian parents, Sejour moved to family to Miami when he was a boy. He grew up working at his grandfather's seafood market in Little Haiti, a job that inspired Sejour and his late brother, Jude Pierre, to open the first Chef Creole restaurant in 1992 on NE 78th Street.
The outdoor-grill setting serving Haitian classics such as queue boeuf, griot, and fresh seafood flavored with Bahamian/creole spice caught on and thrived. Today, Sejour has amassed five locations around Miami and provides catering services from the colorful, hole-in-the-wall take-out spots. In addition to this expansion, Sejour sells his own Chef Creole specialty seasonings and marinades to much success.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Chef Creole empire is its cooking show, Chef Creole's Seasoned Kitchen, produced in 2006 by Sejour and Major Minerz, a local production agency. Hosted by the chef and his wife, Rana, the show features a live DJ, dancing, and cooking demonstrations with an audience. The show is a vibrant departure from traditional food TV, and Sejour's spirited hosting is infectious. A few years ago, he was in talks with Food Network about hosting his own show. Sejour ultimately decided against it, however, unwilling to sacrifice his relationships and lifestyle to the added scrutiny and demands of a network.
Chef Creole has been featured on several TV specials, including Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Vice's Fresh Off the Boat. Over the years, Sejour also has used his popularity to help the community. He is the Haitian spokesperson for "Make Healthy Happen," the local outpost of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative, and partners with the Little Haiti Optimist Club to present an annual holiday toy drive that distributes toys to children in Little Haiti and orphans in Haiti.
Chef Creole boasts an impressive fan base. The pilot episode of Chef Creole's Seasoned Kitchen featured appearances by celebrities such as actress Vivica Fox and the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, and Sejour's Haitian dishes continue to attract famous fans, including Jay Z, Wyclef, Fat Joe, DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Pitbull, and Lauryn Hill, whose snapshots are displayed at the restaurant.
In His Own Words
"I'm very proud of my restaurants," he wrote to New Times last year. "Some people may see them as shabby or not as fancy as the South Beach or midtown establishments, but it's authentic and it gives a true Caribbean feeling. This is why all types of people love and appreciate Chef Creole and why I have the relationships that I have."
Let your voice be heard by voting in our Readers' Poll. Visit readerschoice.miaminewtimes.com by June 4. Then check out the 27th-annual Best of Miami issue, available online and in print Thursday, June 19, to see if your favorites won.