Makaya Caters: A Taste of Haiti in Salt Lake City

Food: Interviews & Features

For Chef Roody Salvator, Makaya Caters is more than just the name of his catering business. It is also the second-highest mountain in Haiti and one of the sites where the Haitian Revolution started. By cooking Haitian cuisine and sharing it with so many, Salvator is able to dispel preconceived notions regarding Haiti and his heritage.

Makaya Caters’ Griyo Platters consisting of pork and bone-in chicken. The chicken is marinated in lime juice and epis, while the pork steeps in lime juice, epis and cinnamon.
Photo: Lmsorenson.net

Salvator leaned through the side window of the truck he built himself while he spoke with me about his culture, family and the history of his people. The immense passion he possesses for Haiti is tangible and clearly demonstrated in the way he prepares and presents his food. Due to some mechanical issues, we met at the center where Salvator stores his vehicle instead of out at an event. As I was his only guest, the experience was  exceptional. Salvator did not have much of his menu ready, but he did have plenty of his Griyo Platters ($15) and Haitian Tacos ($10) prepared, which far surpassed any expectation.

The platters consisted of pork and bone-in chicken. The chicken is marinated in lime juice and epis (Salvator’s special seasoning blend taught to him by his mother), while the pork steeps in lime juice, epis and cinnamon. Both rest in their marinades for 24 hours before they are fried to a crispy, golden brown. The moist chicken fell off the bone with minimal effort, and the thick chunks of pork were so tender that I barely needed to press my fork against them to break it apart. These were served with a handful of deep-fried plantains and piled high with pikliz (pick-leez). The fresh, pickled vegetable slaw was “Utah hot, but Haitian mild,” according to the chef. I found it to have a respectable balance of acidity and heat; it was not overly dressed and also maintained its crunch, which are preferable slaw attributes.

The plantains, which were much sweeter than the pikliz, calmed the spicy slaw somewhat without masking the flavor or spice. The Haitian Tacos mocked what I know of street food. On these, either marinated chicken (shredded) or pork (chopped) are served on a corn tortilla with pikliz and a cilantro crema. The crema toned down the heat of the pikliz, but putting all three together was a well–thought out and finely crafted combination. Personally, I look forward to seeing Salvator and Makaya Caters at a future event where I can try more of his food, such as his black bean fricassee or garlic rice. Both dishes are pictured on the menu adhered to the side of the food truck and look like they would taste incredible.

By cooking Haitian cuisine and sharing it with so many, Makaya Caters chef Roody Salvator is able to dispel preconceived notions regarding Haiti and his heritage.
Photo: Lmsorenson.net

Even though the food had to endure a 30-minute trek from his food truck to my home before I could partake, the tortillas did not become soggy. The plantains’ texture was not compromised, as is expected of hot, fried food sealed in a container. And, as a special treat before my departure, Salvator shared with me a large cup of his passion fruit juice, which contained passion fruit pulp that he had purchased in Haiti during his last visit. This fresh beverage was sweetened just enough to combat the sourness from the pulp, which crunched pleasantly between my teeth as I drank it.

Having appeared numerous times on Good Things Utah, it’s evident that Chef Salvator enjoys sharing recipes, stories and anything Haitian-related with anyone willing to listen. His infectious smile was hard not to imitate as he described the evolution of his business. Salvator is particular about the events he attends, but if anything is guaranteed, it is that no matter where he takes his truck, he will always leave his guests smiling in his wake. For more information, follow Makaya Caters on Facebook @makayacater and on Instagram @makaya.caters.

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