Meet Stonehill’s Top Chef

February 12, 2016

Chef Jocelyn Aurelien in action

As Stonehill’s top chef, Jocelyn Aurelien brings a global touch to campus cuisine.

Born and raised in Haiti, he grew up helping his mother prepare Creole dishes and, given Haiti’s French heritage, he is well-versed in the art of classical French cooking.

Working in Japan, he perfected his skill at arranging food to look beautiful while gaining a deep appreciation for the healthy nature of traditional Japanese meals. A German chef mentored him when he worked for Marriott Management Services, a fore runner of Sodexo. In addition, he holds certificates from the Culinary Institute of America as well as Sodexo’s culinary academy in Vermont.

Aurelien’s culinary talents are matched only by his linguistic proficiency as he speaks Creole, French, English, elementary Japanese, and working Spanish.

Interacting With Students

Based in Roche Dining Commons, the Sodexo employee has been Executive Chef since early last year. Futhermore, as someone who wanted to be a teacher growing up, he really enjoys working on a college campus, especially interacting with students but also working on many of the College’s special functions such as the recent Student Leadership dinner for 160 campus leaders in the Martin Institute hosted by W.B. Mason.

For that event, he and his team prepared the following entrée: spinach and artichoke stuffed chicken with lemon beurre blanc with dairy free pasta primavera as the vegetarian alternative along with numerous other dietary and allergy accommodations.

“I have always had an instinct for cooking. After my mother died when I was 17, I cooked for my two sisters for about five years and took pride in providing them with good, healthy food every day. As a professional chef, I take that approach to my work in the kitchen with my co-workers and, of course, to my customers. Pleasing the customers requires patience, respect and the ability to listen to their needs, and my team is committed to that philosophy,” he explained.

Aurelien jokes that, unlike Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi who barks “no soup for you” at customers, he would be more likely to tell customers, “there’s always soup for you.”

A big believer in authentic flavors, Aurelien says that he likes to keep his meals simple but elegant. He cautions against the modern temptation to wolf down food, pointing the benefits of eating a little less and at a slower pace. Drawing on the Japanese philosophy of food, he suggests, “eat to be 90 percent full, don’t overdo it.”

In addition to getting out from behind the counter to meet students, faculty and staff in the Dining Commons, Aurelien is open to other opportunities to engage with the campus community. (Left: Brandon Lutton, Chef Jocelyn Aurelien and Kathleen Pendergrass)

Teaching Nutrition 

Last semester, he co-taught a nutrition class with Health and Wellness Coordinator Jessica Greene at which 20 students worked with him to prepare a tasty and healthy salad of roasted kale, red onion, toasted panko crumbs, roasted corn, a lemon & thyme vinaigrette with a dusting of shredded parmesan cheese.

“It was amazing when the students took their first bite and realized that they actually LIKED the food, which many grimaced at the thought of cooking/eating in the beginning. After the lesson, they felt confident they could make this meal again. Anyone can give a cooking lesson, but Chef Jocelyn told stories about the ingredients, gave different tips on cooking vegetables and other foods, etc. He took the time to listen and care about the students, it was very special and I’ve booked another cooking lesson with him for my nutrition class in late April, explains Greene.

"Chef Jocelyn was an excellent teacher, amazing chef, and most importantly warm and friendly person. All of these factors led to the cooking lesson being a tremendous experience our entire class really enjoyed," says Danny Paiva ’18. 

Having experienced poverty in Haiti as a boy, Chef Jocelyn is very conscious of operating in a world of plenty today, which is why Aurelien is precise in his measurement as he works to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with wife, Miho, and their three children, Beethovas, Melodie and Harmonie. He is also involved in Haitian causes and this summer will serve as a volunteer cook for the Annual Haitian National Convention Retreat that will be on campus.

Feedback Welcomed

Always open to ideas and suggestions, he likes to hear feedback from his customers. So, if you see him in the Dining Commons, don’t be shy, go and say Hello to Chef Jocelyn or Bonjou, Bonjour, Hola, or Konnichiwa.