Restauranteur and Chef Nadege Fleurimond cooks things up on The Blackest Questions. Plantain is her love language but can she take the heat or will someone have to get out of the kitchen?
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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi, and welcome to the Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we asked our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s the way this works. We have five rounds of questions about us Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything with each round. The questions we get a little bit tougher and the guest has 15 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they will receive one symbolic Black fist and hear this. If they get it wrong, they’ll hear this, but we’ll still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end. Just for fun. I like to call that Black Lightning. Our guest for this episode today is Brooklyn restaurateur, by the way, of the beautiful island of Haiti, chef Nadege Fleur Mont. She’s an award winning speaker, author and chef. Her catering company, Flor Amon Catering, has catered for companies and institutions such as Anheuser-Busch, Columbia University, BET News and The Colbert Report, as well as notable, notable individuals such as Vivica Fox and Dr. Mehmet Oz, organization, Health Corps, Nada. She’s also catered at the White House. She recently opened a new eatery in Flatbush, Brooklyn, called Button, where you can find her signature plant in sandwiches and nachos. Nadege, thank you so much for joining us at the Blackest Questions today.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:01:35] Thank you so much, Doctor Greer. What an amazing introduction. I was like, is that me?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:38] That’s you, because you’re kind of an amazing person. So I just got to let everybody know. One, we got to hang out at BunNan in Flatbush. So when you’re in Brooklyn, people come and support and eat these plantains and support Nadege who’s an amazing chef and author. And so, Nadege, tell us quickly, how did you get into cooking and catering and being an entrepreneur and overall, just like, you know, woman of the 21st century.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:02:04] Completely accidental. It all started my junior year at Columbia University. I was studying political science. I thought I was going to follow your path and actually go into politics, become a lawyer. I grew up with a single dad in Brooklyn who happens to be a phenomenal, phenomenal cook. So he taught me pretty early on how to cook. So since I was eight, I’ve been throwing down. But, you know, being from an immigrant household, no way was that supposed to be a career path. But when I got to school, I was very nostalgic. First time away from home, even though I was only across the bridge in Manhattan, in Brooklyn, felt like miles away. So food was really how I connected. I started cooking for my friends as a form of comfort for me, but also as a way of introducing them to Haiti. Because I was just so used to the conversation about Haiti being around the politics, the turmoil. And I realized when I introduced food, we talked about other things the culture, the people, the similarities with other groups. So I was like, Yeah, I like this part way better. So I really just started cooking as fun and it became my side hustle because you know what? You’re in college, gotta pay those bills. Yeah. And we can’t go and not work, right? We don’t have, like, you know, daddy, your mommy. I mean, I did it right? So I had to do some working and then catering on the side going on Craigslist. And I was like, wait, people are willing to pay me to cook. So it kind of like the side hustle move
back to Brooklyn. In 2003 when I graduated work for an elected official, cause law was supposed to be the path. So I worked for Congressman Yvette Clarke, who was in the council at the time, but I just kept more meeting people that still wanted me to cater. So we kind of like my clients out on the catering side. And then a year later, in 2000, I was like, You know what? It’s time we take this vote for full throttle.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:57] Wow. Well, I’m so glad I didn’t know you in college because I would have eaten you out of house and home. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a rice connoisseur. I love rice and peas, rice and beans. And I think Haitian rice and beans is my favorite. So, one, I can’t wait to go to BunNan, two I might show up at your doorstep after this taping. And just like a little mouse with a bowl, like feed me Nadege. Now, you know what’s interesting, though, you talk about your father being an amazing cook. And I think for a lot of folks, when we think about cooking and passing down these recipes and so much a part of our culture and heritage, we sort of think of it as a matrilineal line and not necessarily a patrilineal line. Is that something that’s kind of unique to your family, or do you think that there’s a much larger narrative about food and fathers that we don’t really talk about as much when we talk about sort of Black people in the kitchen?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:04:47] I definitely think there is more beyond me, but I do think it’s not the norm. Right. I mean, again, coming here at a young age, my mom stayed in Haiti for her, you know, her personal reason. At the time, my dad was like, okay, I want my daughter. So I came here. So actually you had a fellowship once where I wrote it was for this fellowship of feeding two worlds. And I was exploring how immigration has basically changed how Haitian men view cooking. Because traditionally same way, it’s very much that women cook men out of the kitchen. Men are spoiled. But coming here, right. Some of them come with their wives having to stay behind, or they come here at a young age and they no longer you know, they don’t have their parents with them. So cooking now became a thing that like of survival as opposed to something that was just like automatically a women’s work. The idea of seeing chefs in America kind of like changed the narrative, I think for a lot of Haitian men that actually perhaps it like did on a personal level, but felt that okay, society wise, it wasn’t accepted for them to be in the kitchen. So now they’re here. I used to do these cooking classes all over Brooklyn, and men would come there like, Oh my God, I can’t wait to make my mother a meal because she’s been cooking for me my whole life. So I think it’s just like just general, like the mentality around cooking and men in the kitchen has shifted for a lot of immigrant men and Haitian men, but definitely I’m not the norm. Most people you will see it’s my mom, my aunt, my grandmother.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:26] Right. But I think you make such an interesting point, because with a lot of these cooking shows, you’ve got these male chefs and then we don’t normally think about men in the kitchen. It’s sort of men, chefs that have these shows in these fancy restaurants, but that is part of a male line of cooking as well. And Black men, too. Oh, okay. So this is a different podcast episode where we bring your dad on and we have a whole of wired that he’s.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:06:51] Like, We’re not ready. I don’t know if you’re ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:54] We’re not ready. Well, so, Nadege, are you ready to play the Black as?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:06:58] I don’t know if I’m ready. I was like, I haven’t been in school in 20 years, but let’s hope I remember something or know something.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:05] Right. And just as a reminder, this is a time for us to have fun, to educate our audience, educate ourselves, and just remember that Black people have been, you know, doing so much around the diaspora for, you know, as long as we’ve been on this planet. So I’m ready. I hope we learn something. And you ready for question number one? I’m ready.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:07:25] I’m ready. I’m ready. Scared, but ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:29] Okay, first question. Brazil has a population of over 55 million Afro Brazilians. Which country has the next highest number of Blacks outside of Africa with a population of 46 million?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:07:43] You always hear about Brazil being the second largest. You don’t talk about. Next, I guess the United States.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:52] You’re correct. The United States. And although the transatlantic slave trade brought the majority of African-Americans to the United States, many Africans migrated to the U.S. voluntarily, as you know. And your homeland of Haiti comes in at just over 10 million of descendants from West and Central Africa, mainly from Ghana, Cameroon, Angola, Sierra Leone, Benin and among other countries. Now, when you were in Columbia and in some of your travels, you know, how do you make that connection with cooking and food and our shared histories and our collective histories coming from the continent to countries in Central America to countries in the Caribbean and also the United States now.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:08:32] No, being in Cartagena which is the main city I visited and we took a bus tour to Palenque. But just doing that tour and seeing some of the foods that they cooked, like they make these like, oh, fudge bars, they make all these out of coconut, like big green coconut. I was like, Wait, we do this in Haiti, too? And then it’s very special to them. Like even in Cartagena, If you go to the supermarket, all of those sweets and cookies and different things that this particular group of descendents of the original Africans that were left that that flee to that city, all of it in the general city, they all buy from this one town. They still maintain their own language. So I really felt like, oh my God, it’s like I’m in Haiti, how we developed the Creole language there. So the fact that they still maintain their own language. So for me, travel has always been about that. Like I do culinary tours. I have one coming up in Haiti soon, in January, and I have one coming up in Colombia again, because I just feel like there’s more connection and there’s differences. I always tell people it’s a different boat stops that people were dropped in, but whatever traditions we could carry with us, whenever I step on a new soil, I’m always like looking like, okay, this is very familiar. Just reminds me of home. And food has been one of those ways that we maintain the history and those traditions. And oftentimes, you know, you’ll see that through the food. And that’s what I, I really picked up when I visited Cartagena.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:05] Well, clearly the political scientist in you his has merged with the chef in you. I mean, because essentially you’re talking about my book, Black Ethnics, you know, I mean, I’m talking about diaspora. I’m talking about our shared connections. What is one dish that besides, say, like the coconut? What’s a particular dish where you in your travels, you just keep seeing over and over again? Just in different iterations in the diaspora?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:10:28] Cornmeal is one of those things that I feel like almost we all have a form of version of it in Haiti we call it mayi moulen in the south, in the U.S. we
call it grits. In other parts of the Caribbean, they call it coo coo. I find like we’ve always found ways to kind of like make it our own and also show that connection. Another dish is fufu, which is another like again, we make it out of different root vegetables. In Puerto Rico, more fungal is a form of food when you really think about it, because that is a pounded plantain. Plantain. But most of the other countries you’ll see, like yam, you’ll see breadfruit, like maybe we use breadfruit in the north of Haiti, they use Yam, which I didn’t even know because my family’s from the south. So there’s a lot of things that’s happening that we’re more connected than we really think we are.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:18] Hmm. I love it. You ready for question number two?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:11:21] Oh, yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:23] I love these shared connections Nadege and I just love what you’re doing inside and outside the kitchen to remind us of our connectivity, especially in this moment where so many people are feeling unmoored, you know, not just because of COVID, but just feeling isolated emotionally. The way you think about food and the kitchen and diaspora and Black people is just you know, it sticks to you best.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:11:47] Thank you.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:48] Okay. Question number two, because this is your favorite plant and know it, the plantain plant is said to have originated. Where?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:11:57] I’d like to think, Haiti, but I know it’s not from there. So. Asia?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:03] So the answer is South-East Asia. So a major group of banana varieties are either boiled or fried in savory dishes, and the ripe fruits are mildly sweet and are often cooked with coconut juice or sugar for flavoring. The plantain plant is a gigantic herb that springs from an underground stem. And so there are two groups of plantains that grow in tropical America, India, Egypt and Africa. And so the horn plantain and the French plantain are the two types of plantain. And I know that the plantain is one of your favorite, favorite items to cook.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:12:39] It’s my love language.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:40] That is your love language and your t-shirt. What does your t-shirt say again?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:12:44] Plantain is my love language.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:46] Plantain is my love language. And do you sell those at the store?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:12:49] Yes, we do. Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:53] At BunNun in Flatbush, Brooklyn?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:12:53] We do sell the shirts.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:54] So, ok I need to swing by and obviously get myself a
plantain t-shirt. So when I studied abroad in London, I had a flatmate from Italy and I would make plantains. One, it’s an inexpensive way to have a snack, a treat. And I, you know, fry them up in there. And I put a little cinnamon on mine. And she, you know, she came in one day and she’s like, What? What is this? And I said, It’s a plantain. And she, you know, she’d never seen one. She never smelled one. So I gave her a little taste and she tastes and she’s like, it’s a banana. And I was like well, no, not really. It’s in the family, I guess, you know. But she was looking at it and it looked like a banana to her. It sort of tasted like a banana. So whenever I made my plantain, she would always come and say, Oh, you’re making banana cousin. Or cousin banana.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:13:42] I like that, that is banana’s cousin.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:43] So every time I make plantains, I always chuckle to myself thinking of this flat mate. And. And I just say to myself, you know, it’s time to make some banana cousin. So as you make your plantain, which is your signature dish, what other dishes do you think go really well with plantains? And what brought you to use the plantain as your signature dish?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:14:04] I mean, again, we’re located, BunNun is located at the Flatbush in Market, which is now called Flatbush Central. I just remember growing up in Brooklyn, Flatbush Caton Market, which is right on the corner of Flatbush and Caton Avenue in Brooklyn. For the viewers that know Brooklyn very well, that is little Caribbean. It is Caribbean. Feel is Jamaica. Guyana. Trinidad, Haiti. All rolled into one smaller.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:30] Hey, don’t forget the Bahamas.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:14:32] The Bahamas, of course, my people. So, yes. So I just remember going there. That’s where my dad would take me on on Saturdays, where we would shop for very traditional products. Like you can find those things that you can only get back home. But these vendors, these all that women would sell, these traditional things that they either carried in their suitcases when they traveled back and forth or whatever it was. So they kind of shut down for a few years redevelopment of course, and they were building the building and then they created a food court on the bottom. And to me I was like, everyone was like, that should open up something. And I had no idea what I wanted to open up because I never wanted a restaurant. I’ve been catering so long. I love the freedom that it allowed me. So I was like a brick and mortar. That’s not like stress. But I was just so connected to the story of the Flatbush Canton Market because again, the fact that it came back, it’s been an institution that’s been in the community for 30 years. I was like, I mean, I like restaurants, but I do like the idea of maintaining our cultural heritage as much as possible. And to the extent that I can contribute to that, I want it to be part of it. Such a cute building. The vendors are great. And I was like, You know what? I want a food hall. And I was like, What can I sell? Rice and plantains. They are really my two love languages. So I was like, I could do different rices from around the world, like Joe, La, Joe, somebody can steal that idea because I just can’t run any more businesses. But you know, I just wanted a place that had that. And then I was like, plantain. When I think about the plant and I think of so many people, like I just came back from Colombia, they have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, every meal. I think of Jamaica, I think of Haiti. I think of all these different places. And I was like, Oh my God, I love how this one fruit really does connect the whole Black diaspora. And how can I make it cool? Because I know West Indians, we like to eat it with salt, fish and herring and liver. In the mornings I get some breakfast food where I’m from, like plantian we eat it like maybe boiled for breakfast. Or if we’re eating it for dinner, we’re flatten it up like tombstone stone is the green ones. We fry them, flatten
them up and fry them again and have them as a side dish. But I was like, I love plantain so much. I wanted to be the star. I want it to be the main course. How can I create a place around that and just really thinking and thinking and eventually came to the idea that came to me. I wanted plantain and everything. I had seen plantain and sandwiches before and I was like, They all right? And I was like, How can I make it my signature? Where I’m also adding other plantains and things, which is plantain fries, which I don’t usually have anywhere else. I’ve got the plantain chip nachos, you know, I didn’t know any other restaurants. And like I tell people, I teach entrepreneurship to middle schoolers and high school students. And I was like, That’s really what entrepreneurship is about, right? It’s problem solving, seeing a need, even if it’s a personal need. You you may find that other people have the need. And I think people were really tired of having plantain as a side dish because they’ve been flocking to BunNun just so they can have their plantain filled. And it’s just been a great experience.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:49] And I think that it’s such an element of creativity as well, you know, not just filling a need, but also feeling someone’s need to feel something different, something new and exciting from from a plant or herb that, you know, we think we know. And this is a whole new way of looking at. You’ve just kind of shifted the lens for us for this this item that we’ve had on our plates for for decades.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:18:14] Yeah. And also to another component that really intrigued me was street food. Like when I think of like I wrote a book called Haiti Uncovered, uncovered a regional adventure into the art of Haitian cuisine. And for me, that. Book was about traveling to Haiti and exploring the food in its traditional form. People were like, Well, if you want to write a book on Haitian food, why don’t you just ask all the Haitian people in New York? And I was like, That’s cool. But we know Haitian food through the eyes of an immigrant, right? People who traveled abroad. I wanted to explore the food and bring it back to people like myself that grew up. But really from the hands. And I also wanted the stories connected to it because, yes, I’m a great cook, but they are way better cooks than me. I think what has always set me apart is the fact, like, I really care about the stories that are connected to food. And for me, traveling Haiti over the course of a year and talking to different people, seeing the world food place in their homes, different class structures was just amazing to me. But another thing that captivated me was street food. And street food in Haiti is known as fungus, which is fried everything and then is like the thing. Like when you’re walking the streets late night or rushing somewhere, you grab you some fried plantains with some fried pork, which is known as Creole. And that’s what you’re having.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:32] And that’s what you had.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:19:33] So in this space, I wanted to present kind of like the idea of fungus, which is street food, but like you said, in a creative different way where you could sit and have it in a way that you probably didn’t imagine, but when you really break it into its parts, you’re like, Oh my God, this is fungus.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:52] Okay, well, listen, I can’t keep you all day even though I want to. I got to. We’re going to move on to question number three.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:19:58] Three, three. I’m ready. I’m ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:00] Okay. This renowned military commander led the Haitian independence movement during the French Revolution 1787 to 1799. Who is he?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:20:13] Toussaint.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:14] You are correct. And his original name was Francois Dominique, too. So born in 1743 and sentimental. And he died in France in 1803. He emancipated the enslaved people and negotiated for the French colony of Hispaniola, Saint Dominique to be governed by former enslaved people as a French protectorate. And in 1801, Toussaint returned to Spanish. Santo Dominique freed the enslaved people, which gave him command of the entire island of Hispaniola, which is now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic. And so being from Haiti, did you and your father sort of growing up talk about Toussaint L’Ouverture, or do you remember reading books about him either in school or when you got to Columbia?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:20:55] Funny enough, I always tell people I became Haitian when I went to college.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:02] I talked about this is in Black Ethnics. So many people feel that way.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:21:05] Because I was born in Haiti, but I came at seven. My dad was that group of, you know, people that came when they really wanted to disconnect from Haiti, right. Whether it was for political turmoil, whatever it was that was happening. So growing up, my dad was not a proud Haitian, even though he just moved back to Haiti like a few months ago. But at the time, he was always like, No, is that a place you want to talk about? So it wasn’t until I got to Columbia’s campus, I became really like interested in the Haitian culture because like I said, I was tired of those news soundbites in the news all the time. That was always the same narrative. I was like, Is this really what we are all about? So on my own, I started exploring and wanting to learn more about Haiti because I was like, I’ve heard about the Haitian independence, but I didn’t really fully understand what it is. So I remember the first book I picked up, which I probably still have in myself, was C. L. R Jame’s book The Black Jacobins. And I was like, We did that, we did that, we did that, you know. So really reading those books and really self-educated myself, like I didn’t even take classes really the way I explored it. I was very much into Black lit classes, Belle Haute and all that. Learning about African-American history and culture. But the Haiti work I really did on my own, and I was like, Oh, I want to learn more. So when you mentioned to say I was like, I feel likeToussaint is so underrated, you know, because when you talk to Haitians, because my other love is history, especially, like I said, Haitian history and Black history. When you talk to Haitians, they really are pro Dessalines who basically became the first once the slaves were freed because to say was strict and killed back in France. So this actually they love him because he was like a no holds barred person. Cut their heads, kill them. Let’s get this, you know, independence type of person.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:02] We call him ’bout it ’bout it.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:23:04] He was right? And we love that. But I think to say was really a strategist like he understood he understood, though, the space that Haiti would hold being the only Black republic in the world at the time with what was going on with slavery and colonization that we had to build that. A bit more diplomatic, and some people may see that as weak. But I think it’s just he understood that we had to go about things in a more strategic way.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:33] Well, let’s keep with the politics discussion and head on over to question number four. You’re doing so well.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:23:39] I love it. Politics.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:41] Okay. Of course. I mean, listen, you’ve got politics. You’ve got history. You’ve got food, you’ve got culture, you’ve got creativity and entrepreneurship. I mean, like, literally, you do it all. So I’m just I’m just honored that you’re spending some time with us and real talk. We are getting your dad on this podcast because I cannot wait for this shenanigans to ensue and to hear his stories about growing up with little Nedege and taking her to the market in Flatbush. Okay. Question number four, this American politician and military officer was the former secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. Who is he?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:24:17] Colin Powell.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:19] That is correct. When Colin Luther Powell on April 5th, 1937, in Harlem, New York. So Powell was the son of Jamaican immigrants, Luther and Powell. He was raised in the southside of the Bronx and educated in New York City public schools. He graduated from Morris High School in 1954 without any definite plans for what he wanted to do in life. And so it was at City College in New York, where he studied geology, and he was the first Black U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And he died October 18th in 2021 at the age of 84. And so did you know about Colin Powell growing up? Do you know about his Jamaican heritage?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:24:56] No. No, I definitely knew about him. I knew about the Jamaican heritage because, again, like the one thing about being in Brooklyn, at least by the time I was here, Caribbeans were my cousins, like everybody was like, you know, what’s happening with the curve and people. And whenever something great happened we all celebrated. So I definitely knew that my dad loved him because I think he’s just the fact like he was like Black military, like he felt like he he had honor, he had strength. And he’s someone we spoke about in my household. My dad was big into politics, but in a weird way. Let me tell you a funny story real quick. I remember volunteering. There was a time Ruth Messenger ran for office against I think it was Manhattan borough president. It was Al Sharpton and Ralph Messenger running. And I remember telling my dad, I’m in high school. I was like, I’m volunteering for this campaign. He was like who are you volunteering for? I walk like Ruth Messenger? He goes, Really? So he let me volunteer a whole week. And then he came. I came home. He was like, Aren’t you ashamed of yourself. I was like, Why should I be ashamed? You don’t like Al Sharpton? You always say, you know, he’s crazy. He always is screaming on television kind of like funny little things. And then he’s like, Yeah, but he stands for you. If something happens to you right now, who do you think would fight for you? It would be Al Sharpton. I can’t believe you. Oh, my God. So just these little things that was like growing up with my dad was like these lessons that would come in weird forms, but I just really like that’s how politics was talked about in my household. Like, really within the context of you as a person who is really fighting for you, who stands for you and just like loyalty in general.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:37] Yeah. And this shared Black identity that you clearly have carried over into your food and how you think about food and bringing different cultures into your food.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:26:46] Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:46] Yes. I love you Nadege, but we have to get your dad.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:26:52] Not you too, not you too!
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:54] We should have my dad and your dad in conversation. Now, that would be a podcast that I’m not ready for. Okay, question number five. You’re doing so well. This menswear designer became the artistic director for Louis Vuitton and was the founder of Off-White. Who is he?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:27:11] Well, see, I don’t know fashion, because that is where my T-shirt menswear designer Jeremy, he recently died.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:23] Yes. I guess the answer is Virgil Abloh. Virgil. So the late Virgil Abloh, he and his sister were raised in Rockford, Illinois, by Canadian immigrant parents. And in 2009, Abloh interned with Kanye West at Fendi in Rome. And so they photographed they were photographed by Tommy Ton for style icon outside in Paris in what became a widely circulated picture. And so then fast forward to 2011, he became the creative director of Givenchy and moved on to create his own acclaimed Off-White brand in 2013. And then in 2019, Abloh’s artwork was the subject of an exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. And so, sadly, Abloh succumbed to cancer in 2021 at the young age of 41. And so you released I heard you released a Haitian inspired denim apron line. Yeah. So I wanted you to talk to us a little bit more about your merging of art and fashion and design in some of your work because you’ve already said you may. You wrote a book. You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve started a business. You have a catering business you like. You are doing it all. And so talk to us a little bit more about this art and fashion piece that goes seamlessly with all the other things that you’re building.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:28:43] Uh, for me love, apron made sense again. Like I said, for me, food is beyond just nourishment, right? It’s it’s the real soundtrack to our lives is the real soundtrack to everything we do. Food is present. Food is that our communions, it’s at our weddings. It’s art. All our funerals, it’s everywhere. Right. So when I was traveling for the book, like I said, I really started exploring food. Like, okay, through the food, you can understand the politics. You can because people ask Haitians, why do you wash your meat so much? Like, why do you clean everything? And I was like, I don’t know, it’s just cultural. But when you really look at it, when you go on the island or Haiti itself, you’re like, Oh, refrigeration is an issue. Not everyone has food at home. So back to, I mean, a fridge at home. So bacteria builds up a little bit more quickly, quicker. Our food is kept in the open markets, right? So there’s flies, there’s things. So it’s very different because we don’t have an FDA like we do here. So I started realizing like food is just such an integral part of everything we do. And in terms of like the clothing, then our traditional Caribbean garb it’s called carabella, is the denim fabric and whatever. People hold events and, and even like celebrations like especially in the countryside, they have this so dances and traditional folkloric dances, they wore this dress and food was always a big part of those celebrations. And I was like during the initial month of the pandemic, I was sitting at home scared out of my mind because I run an event space business. I’m like, What am I going to do? I think this is the perfect time to really reconnect once again. So I wrote a book, Taste of Solitude, which again was about comfort foods and connections with Haiti and other travels that I’ve done. But then the apron line was like, Oh my God, it makes sense. I’m at home cooking. I’m being comforted by these foods. I want to be able to connect and put on an apron. And it just made sense for me to merge that traditional Haitian garb and Haitian art, which my friend designed, Grecia Xavier, she designed that original art and I was like, Wow, it’s like an experience because for me it’s always not just about sitting and eating a meal, but it’s how everything connects with what you do around food.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:07] And where can we find said apron?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:10] I have a shop that has all my crazy ideas and creations called Warrior Shop, which is roarior shop dot com and you can find my t-shirts, my books, everything is on there.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:24] I just love being with the Renaissance woman. This has been the best part of my day. So before I let you go, we’re going to play the Black bonus round and I call it Black Lightning. Okay. Okay. You ready? These are just fun questions. There’s no right or wrong answer. Whatever comes to your mind. That’s what you tell us.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:40] Okay. Okay, I’m ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:42] Boiled plantains are fried plantains?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:44] Fried.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:45] Asian cuisine or Latin cuisine?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:47] Asian.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:50] Stew fish or stew chicken?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:51] Stew fish.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:53] Porridge or grits?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:31:55] Oh, don’t make me pick… Grits.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:00] Fried chicken or jerk chicken?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:32:03] Fried chicken.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:04] Okay. Which, within the diaspora, which city have you visited with the best food?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:32:13] Can I, can I. Can I pick my country. Cap-Haitien.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:17] Absolutely can.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:32:19] Cab Haitian Haiti, of course. But a close second is Kingston, Jamaica. I think Jamaica makes amazing.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:25] That’s right.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:32:26] Jamaicans in general.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:27] Talk about some good street food, too. Yeah. Okay. And last but not least, what is your favorite dish to cook?
Nadege Fleurimond [00:32:33] Ooh, legume. Legume is this Haitian traditional dish. And
it’s my favorite, because that’s what my dad would make me after he, you know, did something wrong to me. But he would never say sorry, so he would make me legume. Legume is like, stewed vegetables, eggplant, chayote, carrots, cabbage, and then they they cook it and then they mash it and it’s mixed with meat or seafood. So whatever you want it to be nice to me, I would get my with cock and crab and shrimp. So it would be a seafood debut. And to this day, still my favorite meal to cook, because I always I always get a chuckle because I’m like, yeah, I remember he’d make me that whenever he did that wrong. But didn’t want to say sorry.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:16] Nadege, this has been such a treat and an honor and I can’t wait to go check out BunNun in Flatbush in Brooklyn. I want all of our New York listeners and all of our visitors to New York to go check it out so we can eat some plantains together. And I just I wish you the best of success with all of your various entrepreneurial pursuits and promise that you’re going to come back to the Blackest questions.
Nadege Fleurimond [00:33:38] I will. I will. And BunNun is really a treat. Not only you get your plantains, but they are stuffed or filled or topped with either grilled pork. Red snapper. Mushroom for vegetarians. And we got a jerk chicken. So you will get all those nice Caribbean flavors alongside your plantain. And so I can’t wait to have all your viewers visit us and especially you.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:01] Oh, and you know, I’m going to show up at your house with my rice and beans. So thank you so much to Nadege Fleurimond for joining us. I want to thank you all for listening to the Blackest Questions. This show is produced by Akilah, Cedric Cameron Blackwell and Camille Crews. And I want to thank our listeners for listening to the Blackest questions. If you like what you heard, please download the app and listen and watch many more great shows and share it with everyone you know. Don’t forget, you can listen to theGrios Writing Black Podcast hosted by me Maiysha Kai. This isn’t your typical writing podcast. We interview any and everybody that has anything to do with writing from comics to poets to authors to journalists, to politicians and more. Remember, that’s Writing Black every Sunday, right here on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Download theGrio’s app to listen to writing Black wherever you are.