An accomplished culinary expert and social media influencer known for Haitian-fusion cuisine and a larger-than-life personality, Cynthia Verna is adding a few new elements to her impressive curriculum vitae, including an exciting new venture into her own signature Haitian spices.
Hundreds of thousands of fans have tuned in to “Chef Thia” on her Facebook live broadcasts — from her impassioned prayers and family dinner preps to backstage award show peeks. She seems to have done it all. She’s been a restaurant owner, a host of TV show Taste the Islands, a best-selling biographical author and a women’s advocate.
Adding to her accomplishments, Verna has recently debuted a new hardcover cookbook and her own line of signature Haitian spices. The collection, branded Chef Thia’s Spice, features four dry seasoning blends for seafood, steak, poultry, meat and even rice.
“It’s been a dream of mine to just have something created from the heart,” said Verna.
A Fresh Take on Haitian Spices
Haitians are familiar with the term “epis,” a popular blend of oil, herbs and spices used in creole cooking as a base for nearly any savory dish. To get around the need for refrigeration, Verna developed the dry spice line to offer similar flavor with a much longer shelf life. And the packaging is as vibrant as she is.
Her Signature Spice Mix is a simple, all-purpose blend. Verna’s Peppercorn Spice Mix includes pink, green, black and white peppercorns and is ideal for red meats and vegetables. Her Torched Bird Spice Mix should be paired with poultry and other white meat. And her seafood seasoning, coming soon, contains “a little bit of wine, dry butter and all the goodies,” she said.
The new cookbook, “Taste the Islands: Culinary Adventures in a Caribbean Kitchen,” was developed with the team from the TV show and the University Press of Florida. It was also a labor of love for Verna. It took around two and a half years to perfect, with the recipes being thoroughly tested and tasted before the final product was presented to the public. One of her favorite recipes from the book is an elevated take on soup joumou, Haiti’s famous Independence Day fare.
“When you come from the Caribbean,” she said, “You walk inside a Barnes and Noble and your book is right there with all the top chefs, it’s beautiful and powerful to see.”
When she’s not crafting delicious signature Haitian spices, seasonngs, and recipes, you can find Verna traveling the world as a private chef. She recently returned from catering an intimate, exclusive event in Dubai. “I focus more on bringing my country, my culture, my roots around the world. You want to eat Haitian food. You contact Chef Thia. I bring Haiti, my heart, to you.”
An avid artist and serial entrepreneur, she’s got lots more in the pipeline. Through her newly developed mobile app, her legions of fans — existing and future — can connect fully with her brand. They can purchase her signature Haitian spices or subscribe to get them delivered monthly. They can also purchase any of the three books she’s authored, explore other product offerings such as Chef Thia-designed clothing and home accessories, and, in the near future, contact her for curated cooking advice or one-on-one help in the kitchen.