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Hotseat - Randy Attin

761_dine_721Dining at "Fig"

Randy is one of the partners at Fig. As I arrived at Fig for the interview, Randy's car had just pulled in and he was unloading fresh produce and meats, poultry and fish which he had just handpicked at the gourmet grocers on island. You could see the love being carried out of the car and brought into the restaurant. It's of course all part of the process, purchasing, processing and then finally serving; and Randy and his team do that with such grace. You just can't wait to get there again after you've finished your meal. It's low season so the restaurant will be closing for vacation this week as the team recuperates from a year of hard work and looks forward to some down time. So don't plan to visit Fig before October, but hurry back once it re-opens in October, and see what dishes Randy and his staff have mastered while they were on vacation.

Where were you born? Tell me a little about where you grew up?

I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. My family has been in Trinidad for seven generations, as the records from that time are not very complete. We like to think that we are from Chinese origin. I started competitive swimming at seven years old. It was due to this that I got to travel much within the Caribbean and the US. I still swim in Master Swimming Division and I compete in my age group. There are swimmers, whom I swam against as a child (one from Venezuela and one from Puerto Rico), that I still meet up with in these competitions, as we still compete in Master swimming games. I'm grateful for the discipline and travel that swimming has led me to experience.

Where did you go to school?

I went to the College of Immaculate Conception; it was a Catholic school run by priests. I went to university in the United States and studied mechanical engineering. Math and physics came easy to me, so I got my bachelor's with not too much effort on my part.

Where do you currently work? What is your profession?

I work at Fig. I'm the hands-on manager; I'm where I'm needed. If I had to choose one area, it would be in the kitchen; but I do service, production and the maintenance/upkeep of the building.

You have a fabulous restaurant. Tell me about how you started this business.

I'm one of the partners at Fig. Business is very seasonal; high and low seasons are quite far apart. Our advertising is very much mouth to mouth, we get a good number of guests from neighbouring hotels and these guests tell others about Fig. We don't do much advertising so we are very grateful for a good recommendation. I started in air-conditioning when I came to the island, but decided after six years to pull out of this business and to go back to the business I have a passion for and that is the restaurant business. I'm so happy I took this decision; I absolutely love running the restaurant with my team and partners.

Please tell me something about some of your special recipes. Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from different countries I've visited, homes I've been invited to and recipes I find listed on food cartons. I taste dishes and recreate them for Fig and make them my own. Some of the recipes are from my former restaurants and from family recipes like my famous carrot cake, which I got from my grandmother.

Most chefs have an expertise in a particular cooking style. What would be yours?

No, I don't have a particular style I'm an expert in. I try to be a sponge. I like to work with foods I enjoy to eat. I enjoy sushi and Thai foods. If I go to a dinner of my choice, it would be either of these two. I enjoy tasting foods and I try to recreate them.

Besides working at Fig, do you have any hobbies or interests? Give us a description of a regular day in your life.

I get up early in the morning and leave early to be in the restaurant to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in high season. If I'm lucky, I get to leave by midnight. In off season, we don't serve breakfast, so I have a little break there. Fig is open seven days a week so you can say I live and breathe Fig until we go on vacation.

What are your ambitions for the future? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I've never really planned my life so far out. My current focus is Fig. I would like to see Fig gain its full potential within three years. Fig is like my child, but I really don't know what I'll be doing 10 years from now. I do think it will be something in the hospitality business.

Do you have any days off from work? What do you do on those days?

In low season, I take one day off, which is Monday. As it's a work day, I get to go to the tax office, do groceries, etc., but I do things at my own pace so it's still a great day off.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be, what would be the one question you would ask and what would you serve them to eat?

I'd invite Christine Amampour, Anthony Bourdain (the son of Gloria van der Bilt) and Anderson Cooper. We'd talk about travel and food. We'd have great conversation. I'd ask them: "Of all the places you've been to, if you had a month off, where would you want to go back to for that month?" I'd serve them Trinidadian cuisine – a multi-cultural meal; I'd create plates with various home-style foods from Trinidad.