When it comes to Caribbean cuisine, one Brooklyn-based eatery is making waves with its unique approach and innovative flavors. Fat Fowl, located in the vibrant Dekalb Market Hall, redefines traditional Caribbean food by infusing it with a "new age" twist.
Led by the talented and passionate executive chef and founder Shorne Benjamin, the restaurant offers a menu immersed in the vibrant flavors and spices of the Caribbean. From classic jerk chicken and savory oxtail stew to mouthwatering plantain fritters and aromatic rice and peas, each dish is crafted to showcase the richness and depth of Caribbean flavors.
EBONY chatted with Benjamin to dive deeper into the story behind Fat Fowl and how he's revolutionizing Caribbean cuisine.
EBONY: What motivated you to start a "new age" Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn?
Chef Shorne Benjamin: I found that Caribbean cuisine was underrepresented in New York. The city has such a range of global cuisines, yet you often have to hunt for good West Indian restaurants, and if you're lucky, you might find a handful of the most commonly recognizable dishes from one or two islands. I felt there was room for a high-end take on Caribbean food, just like we've gotten from French, Italian,l and Greek cuisine. So I took my classic French culinary training and mixed it with what I grew up on from my grandmother feeding me. I wanted the community to see the Caribbean through my eyes; I wanted to recreate it to make it different and show that you don't have to use traditional Caribbean ingredients to make something Caribbean.
Can you share the inspiration behind the name Fat Fowl and how it reflects your vision for the eatery?
I knew I wanted to do a chicken concept. I had this unusual brine and preparation I was toying with, which I tried out in pop-ups during the pandemic, and it was well-received. I also knew I wanted something healthy and organic that was for the community. The name reflects my Caribbean heritage—we refer to chickens as fowls—and a descriptor for the plump, organic chickens we roast in our rotisserie machine.
How did your upbringing in St. Lucia influence your passion for cooking?
Caribbean cuisine has excellent, warm flavors; we use simple ingredients to make something tasty. One of my favorite things about St. Lucia is our sense of family and community and how we eat together. This was never more missed than during the pandemic when we couldn't gather and we looked to food to evoke emotions. I was missing that in New York. I wanted to harness it and let it be my influence on the city.
What are some key characteristics of traditional Caribbean cuisine, and how does Fat Fowl incorporate them into its menu?
One traditional Caribbean ingredient I use is scotch bonnet. I'm lucky to have access to the scotch bonnet pepper sauce that my grandmother used—Baron's—and 40 years later, it's a staple at my restaurant. The way the sauce is made, it's more flavorful than spicy. Another traditional ingredient is tamarind; I grew up with tamarind juice and tamarind balls. I modified its use. Instead of creating a sauce, I found mixing it with jerk seasonings and applying it on mushrooms made for a new, flavorful take that my vegan customers love.
Could you give us examples of how you add a twist to classic Caribbean dishes?
Oxtail grilled cheese, for example, I approach oxtails the way I was trained in French culinary. I braise it in red wine with a lot of aromatics and cook it for 3 to 4 hours until it falls off the bone. I reduce the same braising liquid with red wine to make the perfect oxtail juice. This is a classic approach to braising meat; I just use it for oxtails, a Caribbean delicacy. Then, instead of serving oxtails with rice, I decided to make a grilled cheese out of it.
Another example is creating a healthier version of "rice and peas." I love quinoa, so I decided to re-make traditional Caribbean rice and peas by offering quinoa and beans. And to be honest, it has amazing flavor from the coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger.
Below, chef Shorne Benjamin drops his Honey Curry Roasted Carrots recipe for us to recreate at home.
Honey Curry Roasted Carrots
Honey Curry Roasted Carrots
- 1-lb bag of carrots, cleaned and peeled
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1 teaspoon of curry powder (preferred brand: Blue Mountain Jamaican)
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 tablespoon of apple vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of Baron hot sauce or hot sauce of your choice
- 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a pot of water to boil.
- Blanch the carrots for 3 minutes.
- Once blanched, shock in an ice water bath to stop the cooking.
- Remove from the water, pat dry, and set aside.
Honey curry sauce
- In a small pot, bring the honey, curry, vinegar, and hot sauce to a simmer.
- Stir, remove from heat, and set aside.
- Season the carrots with salt, pepper, and thyme.
- Roast for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Remove from the oven, put the carrots in a bowl, drizzle with the honey curry sauce, and toss.
- Top with sesame seeds to serve.
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