Meet AJ & Mirlene, the talented duo behind savorythoughts.com. They are passionate about cooking, writing, and photography, and their website showcases their expertise in all three areas.
What sets them apart is their ability to create mouthwatering Haitian dishes as well as international cuisine that will leave your taste buds dancing. But their goal is not just to introduce you to new dishes, they want to bring them to your dining table and help you create meaningful experiences with your loved ones. After all, great conversations always involve food.
AJ & Mirlene’s aim is to make cooking fast, fun, and exciting for you. So, if you’re looking for succulent new dishes and want to impress your friends and family, you’ll definitely want to follow Savory Thoughts.
Read our exclusive interview with AJ & Mirlene now!
What follows is an interesting interview with the Cooking influencer.
1. Please Tell Us a Little About Yourself and How You Got Into Cooking.
Both AJ and I were born in Haiti. We moved to the States as children. But our love for cooking started at different stages in our lives. I (Mirlene) have always found ways to stay close to the kitchen cooking alongside various family members since Haiti.
AJ, as a youngster have always enjoyed visiting and cooking with his grandmother in Canada.
Though we did not know each other as children and met much later in life. Individually, we walked our own path, but we were never too far from the kitchen.
We picked up tips and tricks along the way that we still use in our recipes and kitchen today. From baking techniques, to cleaning meats (Haitian style), and to perfecting the art of various Haitian style rice recipes, these tips and tricks helped mold Savory Thoughts to what it is today.
Even though years later after graduating from college in Business (Mirlene) and AJ after obtaining is MBA and pursuing our careers, and of course creating a family, cooking was never too far from the scene.
When AJ and I first met, our discussion revolved around food and the various dishes we were accustomed to growing up. Cooking was always a way for us to express our feelings, share our stories, especially with the children and friends, and now the world.
We got into cooking professionally to show the world how beautiful Haitian Cuisine is. Our friends are always for certain dishes, so we came up with the idea of sharing with the world. Mainly to show the amount of love, care, and patience that goes into making a Haitian dish.
2. What Are Your Favorite Types of Haitian Recipes to Create and Share, and Why?
There’s no way we can choose one, two or three. For starters our Soup Joumou, which is our national soup, tells the story of the Haitian people. It is prepared every year in almost every Haitian home around the world to celebrate Haiti’s Independence (January 1st).
It is extremely filling with sensational flavors, and it is a special soup to Haitians because it is a reminder of our struggles and victory. During slavery, Haitian slaves were not allowed to enjoy this dish as it was only to be prepared for the slave masters. Today, we are proud and happy to share our soup with the world.
Haitian Black rice (Mushroom Rice) is mainly AJ’s favorite type rice. It is fluffy and bold with a distinctive flavor. You will typically find this dish on the dinner table on special occasions or special Sunday dinners.
What makes this rice so special is that the mushroom (djon djon) is only found in the northern region of Haiti. It is considered a delicacy and is often served at weddings, holidays, Sunday dinners, or special occasions.
Mais Moulin is my (Mirlene) favorite to eat. It is a coarse cornmeal (or fine cornmeal which resembles polenta) dish that can be prepared plain, with spinach, vegetables, beans, and or served with meat.
Speaking of meat, Tasso (fried meat) is another favorite. Tasso can be made with beef, pork, or goat. It is what we called street food in Haiti. When paired with fried plantains and pikliz, the flavors merging is enough to take you back to your favorite childhood moments. Truly is a beautiful, delicious combination that one must enjoy.
This is what food is supposed to do, bring you to your favorite moments in life. Making you salivate with just the thought of the most abundant flavors bursting in your mouth.
3. How Do You Balance Traditional Cooking Methods With Modern Twists in Your Recipes?
Most of our Haitian dishes take a tremendous amount of time to prepare, and some require an all-day affair. AJ and I are busy parents. We are often running from one activity to another. While we try to stay true to our traditional cooking methods, some of the techniques have been altered.
For example, with modern technology and the convenience of the air fryer, food processor, instant pot and so on, we no longer spend hours creating meals. Also, we want the world to bring a little bit of Haiti to their dining table, and the only way to do so, is to not make it intimidating, but satisfying.
Our ingredients may also be slightly altered depending on what’s available in our region. No different than the Haitian dishes being tweaked from their West African counterparts due to what is available in the Caribbeans.
4. How Do You Come Up With New and Innovative Recipes?
We have a wonderful team that search of suggestions and bring ideas on recipes. Though we don’t necessarily follow a trend, we do however try to bring foods for the season. We do have a chef on our team who develop some of our recipes.
We also do have many more Haitian dishes to share, certainly there isn’t a shortage in that category.
AJ have also traveled throughout different parts of the world and loves to share his experience based on what he has tried. Like his model said, “I love to eat”. And yes, he truly does.
5. Can You Share Any Cooking Tips or Techniques That You Think Are Important for Beginners to Know?
From the very start get in the habit of using fresh ingredients, as it will give you a true indication of what the ingredients take like. You will also get a more satisfying and healthier outcome.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Taste the ingredients before adding them to your dish. Knowing the flavors of your ingredients is half the battle. If it is too robust, start with a ¼ tsp. This is particularly true when it comes to spices such as cloves, allspice, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, or any spice with a strong earthy flavor. The main thing to remember, you can always add, but you cannot remove.
Allow the food to cook undisturbed. Be nice to the food, it will be nice to you in return. Another word, enjoy what you are doing, it will reciprocate on the dinner table.
Do not be afraid to season your food. This is where the enjoyment comes. I always say start with 1 tsp. for non-earthy robust flavors. You are safe with 1 tsp. of salt (depending on the dish) but can always add more if needed. If you add too much at the beginning, it doesn’t give you much room to decrease the salt level. It’s better to gradually increase as needed.
Clean as you go. Keeping your kitchen clean will help to avoid cross-contamination. We have a full section in our Poulet En Sauce recipe where we share how we clean meat and why we use vinegar, lemon or lime and sometimes sour oranges. We also have a video coming out soon demonstrating our process.
6. Can You Talk About Any Culinary Experiences or Travel That Has Influenced Your Cooking?
AJ- my culinary skills came from my mother as she is the one who introduced me to cooking. Cooking was not something that I did in Haiti. I started learning as a teenager here in the U.S. I used to test some of my mother’s recipes from her culinary school days. The first successful dish I made was lamb.
I have traveled to quite a few places around the world and have appreciated many different dishes. I found myself recognizing similarities and finding aspects that make us similar even when I am in places that is a world apart from Haiti or the U.S.
My travels to West Africa have certainly given me a much greater appreciation to how much Haiti has maintained its ancestral link. I was pleasantly surprised because it was unexpected.
I have tried West African cuisine growing up, but that is at an establishment. Now to be there and eating in someone’s house is certainly a breathtaking experience.
First the attention to the food and the process. Of course, it is an all-day affair similar to Haitian cooking. But what was revealing was the food itself. For instance, I had cassava and potato leaves, while in Haiti I had jute leaves cooked in a similar fashion. Both styles are served over a bed of white rice.
7. Can You Talk About Any Unique Cooking Methods or Techniques That You Use in Your Recipes?
When making rice, after I have added the rice to the water and stirring it a couple times, I measure the amount of water by inserting the serving spoon in the middle of the pot to see if the liquid or rice is enough.
If the spoon floats, then the water is too much, I would either add more rice or remove some of the water.
If the spoon stands up straight without me holding it, then the measurements are perfect. But in order for this method to work, you have to know exactly what to look for and how it should feel. It can be misleading if you are not used to it.
I never time hard boil eggs. I always base it on if I remove the egg from the water and it immediately dries up, then my eggs are cooked. This method works well for those who love well-done hard boil eggs.
With any recipe that includes sugar (even juice), always add a dash of salt. This will help bring out the sweetness even more.
AJ on the other hand, when boiling spaghetti likes to throw a small piece on the wall. If it sticks for more than 5 seconds then it is (aldente)ready.
8. Can You Walk Us Through the Process of Developing a Recipe From Start to Finish?
Now that is a process! Recipe development always starts with research. Research involves how often people look for it, what is the background of the dish, etc.. If it is an unfamiliar dish, we research other recipes from the point of origin, from there we make our alterations.
After making the changes, then we will prepare the meal. If it turns out right we will test it again as a fail-safe, then it will go on the site. If the recipe doesn’t turn out right, it will not be added.
I can recall one recipe that we made it for a brand. Needless to say, it was not one we particularly cared for, for various reasons. After making the recipe, we did dispose it, but the readers loved it.
The dish wasn’t and is not a dish we eat at home. however, that’s what was requested. We were so relieved they loved it because we thought it was a flop. And we have never made it again.
9. What is Your Favorite Dish to Cook for Friends and Family?
AJ- Believe it or not, the simplest dish I enjoy is grilling hamburgers. Why, because it is so simple and yet so delicious. All you need is fresh organic ground sirloin for an enjoyable hamburger, and of course don’t forget the condiments.
Another delicious dish I love to make is the sausage gravy we have on the website.
I make that dish every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our brunch. And of course, our fried plantains, Haitian black rice (djon djon), and the corn casserole is always on the menu.
Those are great times as we embrace both the Haitian and American culture.
10. How Do You Stay Up to Date With Current Food Trends and Incorporate Them Into Your Recipes?
We are not big on trends, mainly because it’s not realistic. We do eat the food we make; therefore, we cook what we think our audience will like. We don’t follow the latest trends because we don’t believe it is a true representation of how normal people lives.
11. How Do You Plan and Organize Your Content, and What Tools Do You Use to Stay on Track?
We have a wonderful team that keeps us accountable. We also utilize various software such as Microsoft 365, which allows us a one stop shop access to the calendar, emails, Excel spreadsheet and OneNote.
Our IT folks who have been with us since our inception, take care of all our website functions. Other tools we use for video editing and pictures are adobe programs as well as apple software.
12. Can You Share Any Favorite Childhood Food Memories That Have Influenced Your Cooking?
We can certainly share a lot. For me (Mirlene) I have always enjoyed mayis moulen and it has been my favorite even today. As for me (AJ) it is the fritay and the black rice. The fritay because it brings memories of going to the beach on Fridays and enjoying it by the ocean.
And yes, both of our favorites are on the site to share with everyone.
13. What Do You Hope People Take Away From Your Blog, and How Do You Want to Inspire Them in the Kitchen?
We want our blog to be the place for people to go for Haitian and international recipes. We want people, who would not normally try a Haitian dish due to limited access, to feel comfortable making it and enjoying it at their dinner table.
It warms our hearts to be part of your family’s table, a cherished moment when families can appreciate their time together.
AJ & Mirlene are a talented and passionate duo who have created a website that is a treasure trove of delicious Haitian and international recipes. Their mission is not only to introduce new dishes but also to help bring people together around the dining table. AJ’s goal is to make cooking fun, fast, and exciting for everyone so that everyone can enjoy the process of creating delicious food.
If you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons and create memorable experiences with your loved ones, be sure to check out savorythoughts.com and follow on social media using the links below. Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!