NOTE: Chef Beckford was a member of The Chef Alliance until June 2017, after which his membership and liability insurance expired. Since that time, we can no longer be in a position to vouch for the service provided or that he has liability insurance to protect you.
Ajeen Beckford was recently in Madrid, Spain to accept the prestigious International Hotel & Restaurant European Quality Award for Gastronomy.
“I came home from work and there was a letter there that said I’ve been selected,” said Beckford. “I was stunned. I was shocked, I didn’t expect it.”
Beckford, who lives in Scarborough’s McCowan Road and Sheppard Avenue area, has hosted various cooking shows around the GTA including appearing on the Food Network stage at Good Foods Canada, and the French Regional Gastronomy Festival in Guadeloupe.
He was honoured in Spain for his culinary skills in creating French-Caribbean fusion cuisine such as ackee soufflé.
This cooking combination has grown in popularity in the culinary world, according to Beckford.
“I was trained in classical French cuisine like every chef, really, for basic cooking. And coming to Canada sort of provided a notion that it would be very competitive cooking only French food because there are many trained chefs here,” said Beckford.
“So my approach to it was fusing Caribbean with the French (cuisine) and do it aggressively.”
Originally from Jamaica, Beckford got his start in the kitchen at a young age. He’s been submerged in the culinary world since he was 15 years old when he accidentally got a job in the kitchen at the Morgan’s Harbour Hotel in Port Royal, Jamaica while sneaking around the pool area one summer.
“A guy sitting around the bar called me over and asked me what I was doing there. And I said I was looking for a summer job,” recalled Beckford.
“He laughed and told me to go in the kitchen and see what I can do and maybe he’ll take me on for the summer. I went in and saw a person doing flambé, with fire coming out the pot and people cutting with knives so fast and I was like ‘whoa!’”
He started working in the mornings and as the years went by he was already working the evening shifts as well.
Beckford worked in the kitchen there for four years until he decided to work as a chef on a cruise ship for six months. An experience he credits for his foray into fusion cuisine.
“When I was there I saw Thai cuisine, French cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine and different variations of cooking and even cooking in bulk” said Beckford.
“It reshaped me and allowed me to shape the way I cook, now. (Working on a cruise ship) It’s no joke, really. It’s a lot of work.”
All that dedication and hard work has paid off, not only has he become a successful chef in his home country of Jamaica, becoming the personal chef for boxing legend Lennox Lewis from 2006-2008. Beckford said he had applied to work at the Tryall Club in Montego Bay, and was called in for an interview, or cooking demo.
“And right on the spot I was told, ‘You nailed it’ and I was hired,” said Beckford.
He was there seven days a week for Lewis who had one challenging request. He had no desire to eat the exact same dish twice.
He wanted Beckford to be creative with his meals and do variations.
“He’s spontaneous. It was challenging at first, but it has helped me to be more creative and master my craft. So it kept me on the edge to keep creating dishes as I go,” said Beckford. “Garlic filet mignon with a cream sauce was his favourite dish.”
Since then, Beckford has created his own catering business entitled Professional Caterers that focuses on French Caribbean fusion cuisine.
He said he plans to work on a GTA tour this summer, giving people a chance to get a taste of French-Caribbean cuisine through classes and shows.
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BACKGROUND: The Chef Alliance is a membership organisation for Personal Chefs, Private Chefs, Chefs and Caterers, Artisan and Cottage Industry food producers and bakers, Home Cooks, Culinary Instructors, Food Stylists, Chef Instructors and other foodservice professionals across Canada. We support our members in growing strong, successful businesses, through mentorship, peer support, marketing, business savings and liability insurance. We have member Chefs in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Burlington, Montreal, Quebec City, Vaughan, Markham, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax... and many other towns and cities in Canada.
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