Stephany Abraham (Brownsville Recreation Center)
My name is Alison Stephany Abraham and I was born on the island of Grenada. I have three my sons—Kimani, Kitwana, and Greg. I’m the 4th in a line of ten children—five boys and five girls, so I come from a huge family. My mother’s side of the family is CaribIndians, native to the islands; and my paternal grandmother always told us she was from East Africa. She was Mandingo, standing at about 6’ 2”, and her husband was Scottish, so the grand-children ranged in color from very black to almost white with blue-green eyes and straight hair. So I’m kind of in the middle!
I traveled for the first time when I was twenty; I went back to school in Barbados. I did food and beverage management. My grandmother on my father’s side was a fabulous cook, and she cooked in one of the fancy hotels on the island, so I grew up with food in the house. My mother was also an excellent cook and I was the one that was always in the kitchen with both of them. But when I went back home from school, I realized I couldn’t get a job in my field because I found that you do all the work and the people above you got all the money. So I joined the police force back in Grenada. I was a cop for ten years on the island, and out of the ten years I spent 7 ½ years working in Immigration. Eventually I left the police force and joined a cruise ship because I wanted to travel. My mom had the boys, of course, and I sailed around the world for many years with a company called Cunard. I did that for quite a few years until my mom got sick. I went back home because we’d had a deal: she would take care of the boys and I would take care of her. So I left the ship and went back home and took care of her for two years, and was with her when she passed.
After some time I came to the States and found it very different from other places I’d traveled. I came to Brooklyn and it was a real culture shock. I realized that no matter how much education you have back home, when you come here it doesn’t matter. So you have to reinvent yourself. You have to know how to do that. You have to know how to tap into your inner source and how to reach out to people for help. Being a very proud woman it was hard for me to do that. I became a nanny, but found there was absolutely no job security. I thought, you better figure this out and go back to school. So at the age of forty-one I went back to school. I went to THE BEST culinary school in New York, New York Restaurant School. The program was about 2 ½ years, and I missed only one day in that 2 ½ years of school. I came out of there a qualified chef and I aced the course. I have been a private chef for the last ten years. I love being a private chef because I can experiment as much as I want to! And I don’t just specialize in one cuisine. I can cook Asian food, Mexican food, Italian food, French food, Moroccan food—I love Indian food! I can cook South American food, and of course I can mix up Caribbean cuisine like you’ve never had before. When I’m stuck and I can’t figure out what to make for dinner tonight, I go right back to my mother’s or my grandmother’s kitchen, and I pull something from that bag that will wow my clients. So at this point, it’s just about enjoying the rest of my life. I have to say, I am truly blessed.