As the executive chef of the newly opened South Beach Café, Brian Rattray's credo is simple: "Please diners who believe in good food." Pausing from the organised chaos of the busy kitchen at the Lady Musgrave Road-situated hot spot where he was whipping up and plating meals for the lunchtime crowd, Rattray shares that he is most passionate about the creative process of food. "What I love most," he tells Thursday Food, "is the construction and composure involved in making food."
The chef, who holds an associate degree from Le Cordon Bleu and a culinary management degree from the Cayman Islands College, recently returned to The Rock from Cayman where he was employed as a senior range cook at the Ritz Carlton. "Coming home and taking up this position as executive chef affords me the opportunity to excel using the produce from local farmers and seeing how best we can take the fare at South Beach to the highest level," Rattray informs.
The intense interest in the culinary profession was not always resident within the 44-year-old. "Growing up, I wanted to be an architect," he informs, but it was not to be, due to financial constraints. While attending the Kenilworth Youth Camp in Hanover, the then-teenaged Rattray developed a love for food. "I started to look at a different career path," he said. He landed a year-long stewarding job at the now defunct Fisherman's Point hotel in Ocho Rios soon after. "A chef there told me the culinary profession was a journey," he recalls. Lucky for him, a benefactor saw his inherent potential and young Brian received a scholarship to study in Germany for four years, beginning what has been a richly rewarding career path. After completing his sponsored studies, Rattray stayed on in Europe for a while, working as a private chef before returning to familiar Jamaican shores. Senior chef positions would follow at Beaches Negril, Club Jamaica, Alhambra Inn and Evita's Italian Restaurant, all which he said, served to sharpen his culinary skills. For Rattray, an overwhelming sense of joy still overcomes him whenever his hands go to work to create a meal. "Why I love food is because I believe in it and don't just look at it as just food per se," the chef says, his eyes alive with unrestrained glee. "It's about discipline, character, and showing that food is a beautiful thing."