By Fiona Compton
Photograph By Andy Hawley
Monday 9 February 2009 : 8:30 GMT
Growing up in Trinidad's famously multi-cultural environment, Hasan was seduced by the aromas drifting from his mother's kitchen. She conjured up inventive, money-saving dishes in their humble household in Five Rivers, Arouca, in the east of the island.
Continuing the fascination with food, Hasan became one of the first boys in his secondary school to choose to study Food and Nutrition, and so began his grand love affair with Caribbean food that has spanned over a decade.
Moving to the UK as a teenager, Hasan pursued his passion, studying at Walthamstow College and Westminster Kingsway University. Whilst learning the intricacies of fine dining and European cuisine, Hasan always believed that Caribbean food also had the potential to enter the high-end market as a respected style of cooking.
For several years, Hasan has worked in top Caribbean restaurants in the UK, and has become a popular face, providing sumptuous meals for some of London's well known West Indian events. An advocate for all things West Indian, Hasan saw the opportunity to venture to his home region with Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes for his latest series, Rhodes Across the Caribbean.
After being a chosen to be one of Rhodes' sous chefs, Hasan went to the West Indies to explore eight Caribbean islands, each with their own distinct dishes and flavours. The journey began at the top of the archipelago, in Jamaica, and he then travelled to Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, Curacao, and Grenada.
'It has been an eye-opening experience for me,” Hasan says, “Each island in the Caribbean, despite it being bracketed as one region, is so different in its own way. Although many of us share the same dishes, each island had something they could define as their own. Indian influences are stronger in Trinidad, the English influence is very evident in Bajan food, and the food of Curacao is completely distinct from any of the other islands, with the imprints of the Dutch history embedded in the cuisine.”
Cooking the islands’ national dishes was not the extent of the journey. Hasan, along with fellow sous chef Barrington Douglas, owner of the renowned Discovery Bay Jamaican Restaurant in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, had the opportunity to cook alongside some of the Caribbean's most distinguished and highly regarded chefs. “We cooked with some of the most innovative chefs I have ever witnessed; Caribbean food is definitely coming up, and has already risen to that level where it should be a celebrated and respected cuisine.”
So, what’s next for Hasan? His answer: “Many people have branded Caribbean food as coarse and lacking refinement, and I plan to change that assumption. Our cuisine is some of the best in the world, and the general public do not realise just how diverse we are. Caribbean food is more than just jerk chicken and rice and peas; our region offers some of the most exciting ingredients and creative combinations. I plan to raise the game of West Indian food, paying attention to detail and presentation, understanding the ingredients and always cooking with love. I want to make the best Caribbean food accessible to the wider market, without compromise of quality. There is no reason why we cannot achieve what other genres of food have already."
You can find more information on Hasan by visiting his website at www.hasandefour.com.