A culinary enthusiast with a wild passion and pursuit of perfection as it relates to all things edible, Chef Winston Williams has not only raised the bar for Caribbean haute cuisine but has also created a heightened awareness for “Floribbean” cuisine, which marries Asian and Caribbean cooking methods with exotic spices and fresh Floridian ingredients.
“When people ask me what my specialty is, I always have trouble with that question at first because as a caterer we do it all,” Chef Williams says. “But I guess [my specialty] would have to be classical cuisine with a Caribbean twist.”
From his show stopping, Keylime Broiled Grouper with a Coconut Mojito Sauce to the very popular Floribbean Beef Skillet Roast, and his very innovative signature Carambola Vinaigrette, Williams lent his exceptional knowledge via a session at Catersource, but he also served up a delicious “Jerk in a Cup” bite during The Event Experience held at Miami’s Jungle Island.
A true Caribbean chef
A native from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Williams first realized his passion for cooking while helping his mother and grandmother prepare generational family recipes. His education began in his mother’s kitchen. From there, Williams quickly became an aggressor in the culinary world from high school on. He managed to hold down a full time rigorous high school schedule, all while working full time at a 5-star 4-diamond resort on the island that included five unique concepts, all in which he was an intricate key player. After making his way through this venue, Williams decided to feed his hunger and drive by broadening his horizon outside of the island, with hopes of returning to claim his rightfully earned title as executive chef. The result of this decision landed him at Florida Culinary Institute in 1990. Once he graduated, however, fate took him on a different path as he worked his way through some of the most prestigious country clubs and resorts in Palm Beach. During the summer Williams traveled to New England as an assistant chef to further his already well-defined future and add to his culinary resume. In 1999 he decided to take a leap into entrepreneurship and become a culinary problem solver.
Chef Winston Williams served his signature mini Jerk in a Cup hors d’oeuvre at the Event Experience during Catersource + The Special Event. Photo courtesy WTA Photo via SpotMyPhotos
Chef Williams’ newest endeavor is his Intimate Floribbean Café, which is a speakeasy-style pop-up experience as part of his personal chef services.
“It’s a Chef Winston experience where I bring in my culture,” he says, “and whatever else Chef Winston brings to the table.”
Here are two of chef’s Floribbean inspired dishes to transport you to the islands. Bon Appetit!
Of Spanish origin, Escovitch is a dish of poached or fried fish that is marinated in an acidic spicy mixture before serving. Photo courtesy of the chef
Floribbean Grilled Mahi-Mahi Escovitch
Of Spanish origin, this is a dish of poached or fried fish marinated in an acidic spicy mixture before serving. The acid in the marinade is usually vinegar but can also include citrus juices. Escovitch is the Caribbean name for this dish.
Ingredients for Fish
2 ea. 6-ounce Mahi-Mahi or Grouper fillets (each ½ to 1 inch thick)
4 T olive oil
Salt, to taste
Paprika, to taste
Cumin, to taste
1 T finely grated lime peel
- Pre-heat grill, and arrange fish on large piece of waxed paper or platter
- Rub fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, paprika, cumin, and lime peel
- Place on hot grill, cook all the way through or finish in oven, do not overcook.
- Place in shallow bowl.
Ingredients: Escovitch Marinade
1 ea. medium yellow onion (Spanish), thinly sliced
1 ea. medium carrot, thinly sliced or julienne
½ ea. red bell pepper, julienne
1 ea. medium scotch bonnet pepper (Chile), sliced
½ cup grapefruit juice
⅓ cup orange juice
⅓ cup lime juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 T honey
3 T olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
15-20 leaves fresh cilantro, torn or rough chopped
- Bring first 9 ingredients to boil in large saucepan.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer uncovered until carrots are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in oil and cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour marinade over fish, Let marinate at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
- Squeeze fresh lime juice over fish and serve with avocado and mango slices, joined with seasoned peas & rice with sweet plantains and Johnny Cake.
Jerk chicken is one of Chef Winston Williams’ signature Floribbean dishes. Photo courtesy of the chef
Tamarind Jerk Chicken
5 lbs bone-in, skin-on thighs
8 ea. scallions, both white and green
2 ea. shallots, peeled and halved
6 ea. Scotch bonnet chili peppers, stems removed
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, (1 T dried)
3 T ground allspice
1 cup whole allspice berries
2 T soy sauce
2 T dark brown sugar
Salt and black pepper
½ cup vegetable oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
2 T tamarind paste
- Heat charcoal grill to 300º degrees
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
- Combine all ingredients in a blender, except chicken.
- Rub combined ingredients into chicken, including under the skin. Refrigerate 12 to 36 hours. Bring to room temperature before cooking and lightly sprinkle with more salt.
- For best results, coals in the grill should be at least 12 inches away from chicken. If necessary, push coals to one side of grill to create indirect heat.
- Add 1 cup of soaked whole allspice berries and wood chips to grill.
- Place chicken on grate, skin side up, and cover.
- Let cook undisturbed for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Uncover grill.
- Jerk chicken is done when internal thermometer registers 165º degrees and skin is dark brown and chicken juices are completely clear.