Warm and honest, just like her food
If someone could blind you with a smile, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna would probably be the one to do it! With huge, sparkling eyes and contagiously joyful energy, the Haitian American social media maven is the new culinary co-host of national television series Taste the Islands.
Though she’s classically trained in French techniques, and graduated at the top of her class, her recipes are often simple, and her island roots consistently shine through.
She’s from a region of Haiti called Pelerin, just outside the capital city of Port au Prince. Family members mentored young Thia who opened her first restaurant, ‘Ateliers le Bamboo’, at 17.
Since then she has deliciously satisfied the cravings of presidents and celebrities, and represented Haiti’s consulates in Italy, Thailand and Suriname. Today, she is a private chef and caterer, living and working in South Florida, but her long term goal is to operate restaurants, develop mass market food products, write more books, and build a sustainable brand around her name.
One of the food products you might see in the near future is the element she talks about most, Chef Thia’s Spice. It’s her own version of Haitian epis, a blend of fresh herbs used as a base for savory dishes. Like Haitian culture overall, her food reflects a blend of African, Indonesian, European, Latin and native Taino elements reflected in frequent use of ingredients like star anise, parsley, watercress, cinnamon and thyme.
She says that what sets her food apart is simply the love and passion she puts into making it. Rather than throwing things hurriedly together, she’ll take the time to roast fresh garlic, or saute her special spice to release other layers of flavor, before adding them to her recipes.
CHEF THIA IMAGE GALLERY: BEHIND THE SCENES ON THE SET OF TASTE THE ISLANDS
The ingredients she uses in her own cooking are usually natural and fresh, and she is acutely aware of the health benefits they offer. According to Chef Thia, fresh herbs and spices are the fountain of youth, as evidenced by her family members who “refuse to die”. She plans, like them, to stay healthy and functional way into her 90s with prolific use of garlic, and secret recipes like parsley tea.
As a survivor of physical assault, she is a staunch advocate for abused girls and uses her platform to raise awareness of social issues. In her 2015 book “Ordeals”, she shared her story of family, food, victimization and triumph, and now she focuses her energy on uplifting messages of hope for her legions of online fans.
She is a mother to three beautiful children, and a devout Christian. Look out for her first cookbook “50 Favorite Haitian Recipes” as part of the Taste the Islands Essentials collection, available now on Amazon. Catch her warm Haitian energy on Season 2 of Taste the Islands, on Create TV or a public television station near you.