If you know anything about food and the Caribbean or more specifically, St.Kitts, then you definitely know the name Seth Saheli. We had a sit down with this kittitian chef to talk holiday dishes and Caribbean cuisine. But if not, we will give you a quick introduction.
Seth Saheli or Chef Seth, as he is more widely known, is a personal chef and business owner based right in the heart of St. Kitts. He didn’t start out in “culinary arts”, as he puts it, but it rather found him along the way. Maybe something written in the stars.
In his early career, Chef Seth was in business management, yes, he loved food, but didn’t see it as a career. This interest in business, he actually credits to his father; Fatine Saheli, who was a Lebanese businessman from Australia, who migrated to St. Kitts in his adult life. Fatine had a small store on the island that served a lot of people.
As I entered adulthood, although I was always cooking, I never saw it as a career. I was focused on Business Management and Marketing. I was always the manager of a business, that was my initial interest in a career, fueled too because of my father who was a sales man and business owner.
How passion turned into a business
While working as a marketing manager of a well-known publishing company, Chef Seth woke up with a bright idea, why not start a lunch delivery service. For him, it aligned; his family and friends were always complimenting him on his cook and he thought why not?
He used the knowledge and skills honed over the years as a marketing manager to turbo start his lunch business. And that is how Meaningful Mealz by Chef Seth Saheli was born.
And that is where it all began. I used my marketing and management skills to put the business in place and I created menus and built a client base.
The inspiration behind Meaningful Mealz
Chef Seth’s true inspiration and interest in food started in his family kitchen, when he was very young. He would sit and watch his mom, Wendy Saheli cook.
Wendy was a caterer and restaurant owner, where he also worked at times. She didn’t actually teach him anything step by step, but he picked the passion from her and decided to start cooking himself.
I always loved to cook, as a child, I would always be in the kitchen sitting on a high stool observing my mother’s every move. My mother didn’t actually teach me step by step, but from my observations of her, I was able to learn and as I got older, I would ask her questions and then finally took it upon myself to start cooking.
Partial blindness and cookbook
2020 brought some challenges for the Kittians Chef. He had been struggling with his eyes for a long time, but was scheduled for an operation that would help ease the pain and improve his sight. But with the Covid, came lockdowns and travel was restricted.
“Unfortunately, Covid came on the scene and the government had no choice but to pit the island under lockdown, with outgoing and incoming flights banned. Our air and sea ports were closed. So unfortunately, I was unable to travel for my eye surgery appointment. This led to me losing vision in my right eye, which affected me emotionally and physically. I was worried and under tremendous stress, it ended with me being hospitalized.”
But while still hospitalized, he got right to writing his cookbook, which made a great buzz on the island. This project was therapy, with friends and family coming together to help make it a success. And can be found on amazon.com and is also available on kindle
I used this time to self-motivate and focus on the project of writing my cookbook. I didn’t give up hope and with the support of my family after months of hard and very challenging work, I finally completed my book and had it published. It was on the world market by November 2020
What does the future hold for Seth Saheli?
I have already started groundwork for my second cookbook. I want to become more of an inspirational figure and ambassador for my country with my continued presence and achievements internationally. The plan is to continue to grow the brand of Chef Seth Saheli.
So, what were the holidays like for you?
As a child, growing up in St. Kitts Christmas time was always a time we eagerly looked forward to, I mean school was on vacation, family and friends would visit but the traditional cultural activities were always a highlight. Though they could never trump the array of dishes my mom would make.
The Turkey and ham were the centre pieces on the dinner table, with different side-dishes such as stewed saltfish, Johnny cakes and pies. Oh, there was also the Christmas fruit/rum cake. Mom would bake two, one with rum for the adults and one without for the kids. But I always sneaked a piece from the rum cake.
The New Year came as a continued celebration, picking up from where Christmas left off. Always giving thanks for the past year and with gratitude receiving the new, while we gathered at the dinner table. A meal that combined both the dishes of St. Kitts along with Mediterranean dishes that showed appreciation for my father and his culture.
What is your favourite dish for the holidays?
That would have to be the Caribbean Creole Lobster. The full recipe can be found in my book but I don’t mind telling.
What advice would you give to people with the same passion as you?
My advice to anyone, whether interested in culinary arts or any other career, is to follow your gut feeling. If you wake up with it on your mind, you think about it all day and it’s the last thing on your mind before falling asleep, then it is very highly likely that this is your calling in life, so give it your best.
As with culinary and also everything in life, I believe in preparation. Just like as a chef, putting a dish together first starts with an idea and then the components, the different ingredients and then the process of putting it all together. Everything has to be mentally planned first. And that is how you succeed in life.