Italian-born Chef Christian Esposito has come a long way in his culinary career. His grandmother, a chef, was enthusiastic about preparing home-cooked meals such as pasta, ravioli, sauces, etc. This was where his fascination with food preparation and culinary curiosity was first ignited. “I loved the challenge and the outcomes of mixing ingredients and having a final product to taste,” recalls Esposito.
Chef Esposito started his first cooking job in a seafood restaurant in Giulianova, Italy, called La Taverneta, at the age of 14 and has cooked all over Italy, in the south, the north, central, hotels, private catering in villas. At age 27, he went to Saint Tropez, a coastal town in southeast France, which caters to high-end VIP tourists, and worked there for one year as head chef in a fine dining restaurant.
“I cooked for the richest guy in the world at this private place with bodyguards everywhere. I cooked for the Rothschild family, the Princess of Libanerainians and Frank Mueller, who makes the most expensive watches in the world, 60th birthday which cost $900.000.00.”
After a year in Saint Tropez, Esposito came to St. Thomas, USVI on vacation and ended up staying. He fell in love with the Caribbean’s rich culture and was fascinated with the array of new recipes he was introduced to and started a new life. One particular recipe he can recall was a Hindu Pacific dish – Smoked Salmon with Caribbean-style rice. “The salmon was marinade in olive oil and herbs and placed in a cedar plank which will be burnt on the stove, giving the salmon the smoke cedar flavor and then finished in the oven, making it tasty and soft and served on a bed of Caribbean-style rice. I am going to put this on the menu here at Sebastian’s with an original sauce,” the Italian chef explained.
After leaving the USVI, Christian took the short trek across the sea to the Virgin Islands (British) and was employed at Brandy Bay Restaurant. He then moved to Mexico, and with his love for the Caribbean and the BVI, he returned. After 19 years of holding every position in a kitchen, Chef Christian Esposito transitioned to lead the Sebastian’s by the Sea team late last year as the head chef.
Esposito specializes in Japanese, Thai, French, Italian, and Caribbean cuisines, but his specialty is seafood. “I eat seafood every day. I think it’s wrong to eat too much meat. So I prefer to cook more seafood, but I cook everything,” he said.
Chef Esposito explained that he has only fresh seafood in his kitchen – nothing frozen except the shrimps. You will find fresh Alaskan Salmon, fresh local Mahi-Mahi and Lobsters, fresh Mediterranean Seabass, and fresh Oysters, which arrive weekly. The Oysters are a prestigious quality from Canada called Sex on the Bay.
“My goal is to make Sebastian’s the best restaurant in the BVI and the Caribbean like I did at Brandywine Bay Restaurant. This does not only include the food but the entire ambiance here at Sebastians,” the young chef explained.
He added that people are already talking about the food, and that’s a good thing. “They are saying that we have the best Lobster on the island and like my grandmother taught me, everything in my kitchen – pasta, sauces, burgers, etc. is homemade – except the ketchup for the fries,” he said grinningly.
If you were to ask Google which is the most famous cuisine in the world, Google would answer – Italian – because it is. Esposito said his strong Italian heritage and culture have significantly impacted his culinary style and created a base for most of his creations. Memories of his grandmother in the kitchen gave him a window into the signature flavors in his culture, but his travel experience has helped him build on this base in more creative ways. “I don’t copy dishes; I create the dish, create a new flavour, and make each dish an original.” He shares.
At Sebastian’s, he creates a fusion of Italian, Japanese and Caribbean cuisines with an original twist. For example, Tuna Tartar with passion fruit or mango jam and homemade teriyaki sauce is served cold.
Chef Esposito said that we all work to make money because we have to survive, but he also mainly work for his success, for one day, he hopes to be awarded the Michelin Star. Michelin Stars are a rating system used by the red Michelin Guide to grade restaurants on their quality.
“I have been trained in the warrantee of food – HACCP standards,” Chef said. HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed by analyzing and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement, and handling to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product.
The first thing he did when he started at Sebastian’s was to throw out everything and start fresh because he said he didn’t know how fresh anything was and would not take the risk of putting anyone in the hospital with food poisoning. “I don’t cook food I didn’t order. So, I clean all the freezers and the six fridges, and each one has a specific purpose with labels to avoid cross-contamination of food, and this I teach my staff,” he explained.
Christian boasts that his kitchen is safe. “When you come to Sebastian’s, you can eat with confidence that your food is prepared with the guarantee that you won’t get sick. ”
Today Chef Esposito is passionately committed to ensuring the success of himself and Sebastian’s and its customers by creating exciting menu options with global flavors. He is committed to building a meaningful relationship with the customers by fostering trust and building all business components from the kitchen to the dining room. “I believe it all starts with the customer,” he says.
Now, with a culinary career that has spanned two decades, Chef Christian Esposito looks back on all that he has learned and would encourage aspiring chefs like Brent Lettsome – who is on his team – Elaine Greene, his banquet chef, 18yr old Jada George, Kemuel Gumbs, and the entire team to pursue their culinary passion with dedication and perseverance. “This is not a job; this is a career that you must have a passion for,” he says. “People are quick to critique your food, but you shouldn’t get dismayed. That is the learning process of perfecting your ‘trade’. Have the willingness always to have an open mind, adapt, and overcome. Keep learning.”