For Tre Sanderson, cooking Caribbean food is not only baked in to his DNA, it’s his pride and joy.
“Growing up in a household full of flavour, you know, my mom would always cook amazing, classic Caribbean dishes,” the 28-year-old told Global News one afternoon.
“That love of food and the flavour and the process that went behind it, you know, made me really appreciate everything.”
That appreciation and respect for island cuisine lingered with Tre through the 10 years and counting he’s spent in the culinary industry, chefing in some of the finest kitchens in the GTA, learning French, Italian and Asian cuisines.
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But a glaring absence, Sanderson noticed, from these Michelin-star restaurant menus? Caribbean cuisine.
“They don’t take it seriously,” said Sanderson. “My goal right now as a chef is to bring that cuisine to another level, modernize it and make people appreciate what it is and view it differently.”
Then late last year, life served up a golden opportunity for Sanderson to compete on one of the hottest cooking shows on Food Network: Top Chef Canada.
“I was like here’s my chance,” said Sanderson. “Here’s my chance to showcase what a Black chef could do on a really high level, you know? I broke the boundaries by bringing Caribbean flavours to the table.”
By transforming traditional dishes like Jamaican escovitch fish into gourmet works of art, Sanderson wowed the judges, proving that Caribbean cuisine deserves a seat at the fine dining table.
Then came the moment — the piece de resistance — when the judge announced his name as Canada’s Top Chef, making him the first ever Black chef to win in all 10 seasons the show has been running.
“It was a respect thing, you know?” Sanderson told Global News, still in awe. “For me to bring Caribbean flavours on the national stage and win shows how much potential this food has.”
And he made show history — as the underdog.
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“I’ve been in this industry for almost 10 years and I haven’t been a head chef,” said Sanderson in a clip from the show’s season finale.
“People just don’t realize how hard it is until you step into the skin of a Black guy. How people look at you just because you have braids, just because of how you talk. My talent needs to be shown. I want to show the Black community that someone like me could be a top chef.”
As for what’s next on the menu, Sanderson says opening his own Caribbean fine dining restaurant is top of the list. But the ultimate goal?
“Really push forward and inspire youth and Black chefs to really believe that they could do it in this industry, because it is a eurocentric industry,” said Sanderson.
“There’s a lot of white executive chefs, there’s not a lot of people of colour in the hierarchy. But for me, I really want to push forward and really inspire a generation of Black people.”
Tre Sanderson on winning ‘Top Chef Canada’
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