Thirty-one year-old Certified Pastry Chef and Certified Chef de Cuisine, Nicholas Douglas, is the only Jamaican chef to be twice certified by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), the leading authority in global cuisine, dedicated to defining and promoting standards within professional cooking and hospitality around the world.
Though inspiring, Douglas’ story is one that seemed to lack promise initially. And though the writings were on the wall for a success-filled future, it didn’t help that the young chef-to-be literally couldn’t read. By today’s standards, he was, at the very least, destined to become a failure, and at best, no more than an average Jamaican. But a superhuman commitment to his passion, as well as with the support of key figures in his life, Nicholas is now a model figure of not just overcoming all odds, but destroying them in the process.
After finishing the Swallowfield Primary and Junior High back in Kingston, Nicholas, whose dyslexia got the best of him, found that his only option for advancement was through JAMAL – the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Adult Literacy. While there, he pursued his studies in Food Preparation, and was subsequently encouraged by his mother, Etta-may Taff, and principal of the institution, Ms. Wright, to continue his culinary pursuits at the Professional Development Institute. Nicholas heeded, and would soon be on the path to becoming one of Jamaica’s most decorated chefs.
Studying a one-year course in Level One Food Preparation, Nicholas decided to put his blossoming skills to the test and took part in a cake-baking competition, put on by Dr. Cecil Cornwall, which he won. He was subsequently awarded a scholarship to the Western Hospitality Institute, where he pursued a diploma in Culinary Management. By this time, Nicholas was fully engrossed in his studies, that he was recognized by Dr. Cornwall and given an extension on his scholarship, which should’ve only lasted that year. With the extension, he continued, this time with his eyes set on attaining an associate degree in his discipline – Culinary Management.
After all his academic successes, Douglas soon found out that there were no limits to the heights he could reach, and in 2005, was offered a scholarship, through the European Union, to attend the prestigious and world-renowned Apicius International School of Hospitality in Italy. There, Douglas honed his culinary skills, and went on to study basic Italian at the Linguaviva Scuola di Italiano. With an aching to come back home and share his newfound knowledge, Douglas headed back to Jamaica and back to the Western Hospitality Institute, but this time in the capacity of Lecturer. As well as lecturing duties, Douglas also headed the Institute’s Culinary Department. He had found a level of satisfaction that he had been unfamiliar with it, but the star chef was not content, and took a break from lecturing to engage in matters of self-development. Having long overcome his dyslexia, Nicholas took conversational French as his next challenge, and would go on to excel in it, with a range of other subjects. For a portion of time that spanned 4 years, Nicholas taught in a number of institutions, studied different culinary techniques, and kept improving.
Still not satisfied, however, Nicholas re-enrolled at the Western Hospitality Institute, this time to study for his Bachelors of Science in Hospitality and Culinary Management. He soon ended up in Canada, a requirement for the completion of his degree, and there he impressed, so much so that in the duration of his 10-week stint at Liaison College, he was thrust into a supervisory role, managing a staff of 15 at one of Canada’s leading catering companies, Tradeline Catering. Added to that, Douglas was drafted to a team of ten, as the only black person, on behalf of Tradeline Catering, to cook for high-ranking government officials. The list of feats would not stop there as while mastering his culinary techniques at Liaison College, for a while, he singlehandedly catered for a crowd of over 700 persons at Canada’s annual ‘We Day’.
In 2012, Douglas completed his Bachelors of Science degree, and though he did not receive it until later in 2013, Douglas was worlds away from the boy he once was.
“When I came back, I felt like it was time to test where I was, so I entered the Taste of Jamaica competition. I had no intention of winning, I just wanted to see how much more I had to improve on,” Douglas shared. As history would have it, however, Douglas not only won the Taste of Jamaica competition, but was awarded Pastry Chef of the Year and Showpiece Champion. Added to his already decorated profile, Douglas has the distinction of being the first chef in the history of the competition to receive perfect scores from all international judges in that competition – a feat many thought impossible.
Now, Douglas is pursuing his Masters in Business Administration, and has his eyes set on opening a chain of Jamaican-themed restaurants around the world, with a special interest in the fusion of Jamaican cuisine with French, Italian and Japanese dishes. Eventually, the young chef hopes to elevate himself to the rank of a Master Chef, and has no doubt that he one day will.
-Michael Nattoo – Staff Reporter