Book Review of In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks

by Chef Michael Bennett, The Food Brat
review by Maralyn D. Hill

Chef Bennett’s book starts out with a long title: In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, Orchestrating Florida’s Caribbean Pantry into a Modern Metropolitan Cuisine. The rest is intriguing, well organized, and easy to follow with delicious recipes.

Among the hundreds of cookbooks I’ve read, including ones I’ve co-authored, this gets high marks for being useful, interesting, and cutting edge. A story with recipes always piques my interest and Chef Bennett weaves you through Caribbean history and customs and how they contributed and blended into South Florida culture.

This book challenged me personally, as it is QR Code Enabled. I had not seen that applied to a book before, so I downloaded a QR Code Reader to my iPhone (it would be available for any smart phone) to test it out. When there is a less well-known ingredient, there is a QR code as to where to find it. The same is true for some “how to” videos. You can walk away knowing the answers.

To include so many delicious and appealing gluten-free recipes is a true find for those who must eliminate gluten. For the rest of us, they represent tasty and easy solutions to a variety of healthy meals.

Let me cover the organization of this book, as it is extraordinary. It starts with an overview, recipe highlights, and a brief early history of the Caribbean. Recipes move forward to starters or appetizers, spices and marinades, and a little more story telling.

As the section on Florida’s Fusion Cuisine, Floribbean, begins, it includes salads, new and different approaches, followed by sauces. Naturally, The Food Brat author shares numerous signature dishes, and brings in the importance of seafood, poultry and meats, finishing up with veggies and starches.

The index is complete and thorough. Yet, I almost forgot to mention the importance of the tip boxes throughout the book, with substitutes, pairings, and the like.

This book was revised and updated to provide a totally gluten-free alternative that everyone can enjoy. I know I did and would certainly recommend it. I was going to test out all of the QR links. However, after my daughter went though the book, she asked for it. That is a testimonial in itself, as she doesn’t usually want any of my cookbooks. She is an excellent cook without recipes, but these, she wanted.

You can follow Chef Michael on his blog at You can also purchase several books he has written, there or on Amazon. The ISBN for this one is 9780615297781. Chef Michael has been featured in The New York Times, Ocean Drive Magazine, National Culinary Review, Zagat Review (“Best of”), as well as many local outlets. He has appeared on television shows, including “The Today Show—South Florida.” He was featured in the Miami New Times Magazine as one of South Florida’s pivotal figures in the use of exotic tropical food.

Chef Michael Bennett releases Third Book on 911

Michael Bennett releases his Third Book on 911.


            South Florida, August, 2011 ~ – announces that Michael Bennett, Cookbook Author and the Executive chef of Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale is hosting a Release Party for his Third Book on September 11th, 2011 in remembrance of 911.

                Chef Michael Bennett remembers the days after 911 as those of worry and sorrow, yet in the aftermath came new found pride in being an America. Ten years later we all have been changed by these events. Michael reminisced about such terrible loss and vowed to make his time a valued commodity. Since 911, Chef Michael Bennett taught himself the skills of writing and computer based book publishing to be able to share his passion for the food business with others.

                Since 911, Chef Michael has written and published three books on food and cooking. His love of South Florida is seen in his first two cookbooks: In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks and Underneath a Cloudless Sky. His third book delves into what is like being a chef, called Culture of Cuisine, it notes the common ideals culinary ideals amid four generations of chefs boasting a New American Riviera (Miami) cookery heritage. He will have a book signing and half-price book release at Bimini Boatyard of the evening of the 911 anniversary.

                This book’s primary assertion is based upon the ideas and ideals of some of South Florida’s Top-Chefs. Very recognizable top chef names are written about in the latter chapters, while the first three chapters discuss the rudimental ideals of being a chef. Chapter one lays the groundwork for the next two chapters. Summed up in the next few sentences, Chef Michael describes life as a chef with a particular Love-affair slant; and, is a book that can be used and enjoyed by all, no matter their experience level…














                Chef Michael has found that the real equalizer among cookbook enthusiast is interest in the culture about cooking. Interestingly enough chapters one through four are segmented into sub chapters of thought. Michael deliberated that these similar culinary culture-based ideals were similar enough to have been categorized concurrently, yet the stand-alone thoughts should have their own sectioning. The first two chapters alone have a consequential tone that screams “this has to be a read daily” by all culinary aficionados.


The Use of Q.R. CODES:

                Quick Response (QR) Codes! An Internet sensation, QR codes are being used by millions of people around the world. Chef Michael’s books are produced with these revolutionary codes inlaid within the text of the pages.

                He first added QR codes to his newly revised first Gluten-free cookbook, In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks. QR codes quickly establish weblinks to additional information about the topic stemming from the Internet using a smartphone. On this third book, Chef Michael uses them to enhance descriptions and show additional background information on the chefs that are featured in chapter five. Chapter six goes on to describe how the Internet’s Social Media aspects are going to help young chefs in the future.


About the Author

                Formally trained in the school of hard knocks, Chef Michael has always pursued only one culinary goal, making Miami’s unique culinary ideals visible world-wide. Chef Michael Bennett has done this most convincingly through his two South Florida grounded cookbooks.

                His first two cookbooks are the result of working in numerous noteworthy South Florida and Caribbean restaurants and resorts. Ones that tout a particular South Florida vogue and he has earmarked as “Caribb-ican”.  Obviously this “Caribb-ican” culinary trajectory has hit a cord with local restaurant consumers. This culinary styling has played out well at his current post at Bimini Boatyard. It is where sales and customer counts have gone from sleepy to boisterous as they were recently featured in the New York Times – best places in Fort Lauderdale for its blustery sales increases. See link: Chef Michael’s Boatyard Caribb-ican menu styling emerged three years ago and has segued into accolades from local magazines as: Best New Menu” in 2008 and, Chef Michael Bennett named locally as one of South Florida’s: “Top Chef” in 2009, 2010 and 2011. All the while Chef Michael Bennett boldly hones a specific culinary leadership status through print and on-line publications. 


About Chef Michael Bennett’s other books:               

                Chef Bennett’s first book is titled “In the Land of Pirates, Misfits and Cooks”; it is a first-hand taste of living in the Caribbean. That is also the first interactive cookbook in America. Chef Michael has based the recipes in the book upon healthy Gluten-free cooking. And to this end, he has placed QR (Quick Response) codes on the pages so the reader can quickly interact using a smart phone or web-enabled device. Chef Michael has inlaid the QR codes on the page with the recipe, so you can instantly source that hard to find Gluten-free food item used in his recipes.

                His book will energize your palate as you taste the new cookery methods and the innovative ingredients that are deliberately paired with familiar American fare. Chef Bennett takes the reader on playful culinary journeys throughout the many island Nations of the Caribbean, showing you that with a little ingenuity, you can bedazzle your taste buds by applying this tropically-inspired “Caribb-ican” cookery.

                The book’s FULL FOUR color photos highlight Bennett’s signature style of presentation: “food stacking”. Chef Bennett creates towers and food that ascends, as his recipe styling clearly characterizes “playing with food”. You will never just get food on a plate with Michael Bennett; you will get works of art. This may seem daunting to the average home cook but in true culinary tutoring style Chef Bennett explains in detail “how to play with your food”, this alone is worth having the book as you become an honorary Pirate and Cook of the Caribb-ican style of cooking. 


Chef Michael’s second book; “Underneath a Cloudless Sky” features mouth-watering recipes that will incite a pantry-quaking aftermath. South Florida’s five cookery heritages influenced the book’s recipe development. This full FOUR COLOR cookbook serves up an easy to read 180 plus pages of toothsome (110+) recipes and an instructional narrative about what it is like to dwell and work as a chef on the New American Riviera. This cookbook is the result of Michael’s reformulating the last two decades of South Florida’s “Florida’s Five Flags Fusion Foods” cookery components. The Five Flags citation represents his conceptual reformatting of South Florida’s five distinct cookery heritages.


Underneath a Cloudless Skya 180 page, 110 recipes, “Caribb-ican” stylized cookbook that is retail priced $29.95.  The Book can be bought at Barnes and Noble, and


In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks is 120 recipes, 180 + pages ($35.95) is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon discount books seller website, as well at:


Culture of Cuisine” is 140 pages ($15.95) and is available as a digital download ($2.95) or in print from and



Author substantive:
Michael Bennett is a well-known award winning (Chef of the Year-1995) South Florida chef whose clients are a Who’s Who of Media and Sports personalities. He earned critical culinary kudos as the Executive chef for the 26 year-local culinary force Left Bank restaurant. Under his auspices he brought “Best of” (Zagat Survey); Four Stars (AAA) and Four Diamonds (Mobil) to the long-time three star rating. He also holds culinary affiliations with several culinary and food-related organizations. He regularly lectures on South Florida’s “Caribb-ican” cuisine. 

For more information, contact us at:




Fresh Ingredients, Tropical Flavors and Gluten-free dining are deliciously absorbed in a Value-Endorsed State of Mind

For Immediate Release:
The Professional Image

Fresh Ingredients, Tropical Flavors and Gluten-free dining are deliciously
absorbed in a Value-Endorsed State of Mind
“Food and healthy cooking has been my entire life…making it a value just seems right!”, chef Michael Bennett.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida ~ August, 2011 – Chef Michael Bennett’s current post as the Executive chef – Bimini Boatyard (BBy) that was first usher into the Fort Lauderdale dining scenescape in September of 1989. A lot has happened in the world since the time of its opening. Remember the fall of the Berlin Wall?
The reins of Bimini’s protracted journey have been taken by chef and cookbook Author – Michael Bennett; once acknowledged by the American Culinary Federation as Chef of the Year.
Today the BBY is best-known for its exciting and innovative “Caribb-ican” menu, value-based wines and the best local Happy Hour in Fort Lauderdale. Like BBY’s menu, the wine list selections are globally sourced, chosen for their value price point and a complementary taste that harmonizes with our menu. United with our casual-style of service – that is straight from the heart – referring to a sense of caring and friendliness, it is the combination of good food and this almost neighbor-like service has inspired this 21 year landmark.
Based on his culinary experiences, from a four year escapade in the Caribbean, Chef Bennett has created another “Caribb-ican“inspired menu – he refers as…”New World Cuisine revisited”. This menu feature his unique twist on this menu featuring local tropical ingredients – with a focus on seafood, complimented by: low-fat, Gluten-free “Coulis-grette’s © .
”Since the original opening of BBY, we have embarked on a new course”, says Chef Michael. “The decision was made to create a more accessible and creditable Gluten-free Caribbean slanted seafood-based menu.
Before becoming the executive chef of Bimini Boatyard, chef Michael Bennett recalls; “I lived and worked on various British, French and American Caribbean islands there were unbound by classic European cookery disciplines.” He has blended modern American food with “Caribbean” cookery techniques and ingredients invented during his four year journey through the Caribbean.
This is where Chef Michael reflected upon his culinary edification and began to write his first cookbook: “In the Land of Misfits, Prates and Cooks”. It has become The Professional Image’s first published cookbook and first Gluten-free book written by a chef for chefs.
See more below:

The first Gluten-Free Caribbean-influenced cookbook
that is enhanced with QR codes.
The Professional Image, Inc. that is touted to be the publisher for the Culinary profession, announced its first Cookbook release on September 1st, 2009. “In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks” has now been revised to be 100 percent Gluten-Free.

In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks is now Gluten-free and boasts over 125 mouth-watering Caribbean-inspired recipes. This four color book serves up an easy to read 180 pages of delectable tropical recipes each emphasized with a narrative about what it is like to live and cook in the Caribbean.

This cookbook is the result of Michael’s equating and collaborating hundreds of years of compelling Caribbean food and cookery elements. This book is overflowing with a scrumptious mix of seasoning blends and marinades, salads, appetizers and entrees written in a way where you are the aspirant chef and YOU can compose or alter recipes while atop the stove.

The modern metropolitan recipe styling captures the distinct local flavor of a multi-national cookery heritage. Vibrant photography, easy to use design, one-of-a-kind recipe flow and, interesting and helpful sidebars and QR (Quick Response) codes blend to create the perfect sampling of what this multi-cultural, Caribbean based cookery style has to offer.

The cookbook was developed as a way of thanking the many fans of Caribbean cuisine that know “curry powder” or a “jerk glaze” are not the only examples of a Caribbean chefs repertoire. Michael asserts that after working as a chef for the past four years in applaudable Caribbean dining venues, each has played an important role in the successful dispatch of this book. Michael’s travel and oeuvre throughout the Caribbean, whether on a British, American, French or Spanish island nations, has helped Michael to shape this unprecedented recipe collection.


As guests enjoy chef Bennett’s award-winning Gluten-free cooking as they are treated to the casual elegance of newly remodeled spacious dining rooms, floor to ceiling windows peering out onto the riverfront – in which BBY is perched, three expansive Bar/Lounge areas and an outdoor (riverside) dining terrace. The remodeled interior design captures the feeling that you are in a family friendly, comfortable, Cape Cod stylized restaurant.

For more information on either the cookbook “In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks” or The Professional Image, inc. “publisher for the Culinary profession”, visit: (initiate July ’09) | contact T.P.I. at (305) 851-3441 |

“In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks” cookbook is priced at $34.95 (Please add $3.50 for shipping and handling) Books can be ordered online at as well as through the Mail to this address:

Piracy in the BVI

British Virgin Islands
Pirates & Privateers
Originally posted on:


Pirate tales inflame the imagination!


X marks the spot on ancient treasure maps; galleons leave the Spainish Main laden heavy with pieces of eight; swashbuckling characters rise from the mists of time larger than life (above: The Galleon by A.J. Rowley).
How much is true? What part did the BVI play in this historical drama from the days of sail?

Black Sam Bellamy

“He made a dashing figure in his long deep-cuffed velvet coat, knee breeches, silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes; with a sword slung on his left hip and four pistols in his sash. Unlike some of his fellows, Bellamy never wore the fashionable powdered wig, but grew his dark hair long and tied it back with a black satin bow.” See Black Sam Bellamy: The Prince of Pirates.

Seeking his fortune, first as a treasure hunter, so as to marry a New England maiden, “Black Sam” Bellamy captured 50 prizes in a year’s time, many while based at his namesake Bellamy Cay in the BVI’s Trellis Bay.

After capturing his richest prize, the Whydah, “Black Sam” perished in a shipwreck at 29 while going back home. The Whydah shipwreck from 1717 was recently rediscovered.

Pirate Crews

Pirates came from all nations and walks of life. Fifty of Bellamy’s crew were black, including his pilot, John Julian, who survived the Whydah shipwreck only to be sold into slavery.

In many instances, pirates elected their captains and lived by a commonly agreed set of rules, although punishments were severe and included flogging, marooning and death such as hanging from the ship’s yardarm or “walking the plank.”

Golden Age of Pirates

Centered on the Caribbean and its shores, the late 17th and early 18th centuries (1680-1725) is considered the “golden age of pirates.” Once useful to the English, French and Dutch in attacking the Spanish empire, and each other, pirates and privateers flourished in this period, wreaking havoc on maritime commerce and terrorizing travellers.

Gradually equilibrium was reached between the colonial powers and the British Navy came to rule the sea. By 1725 the great age of priates ended as merchants successfully pressured colonial governors to end piracy.

Yet the seeds of freedom planted by these rebellious pirate crews, electing their own captains and practicing equality of opportunity–these revolutionary ideas–would find fruition in the French and American revolutions against the very colonial regimes that hunted them down and hung not a few.

Privateers & Buccaneers

A buchaneer was another name for a sea robber or pirate. Buchaneer came from the early French practioneers called “boucaniers.”

Columbus’ voyage resulted in the Spanish empire centered on the Caribbean shores of the Americas, known as the Spanish Main. Precious metals and other riches flowed from inland mines and Indian empires to sea coast towns and then on through the Caribbean by galleons under sail to Spain.

This wealth attracted English privateers, the most famous of whom was Sir Francis Drake. A privateer was a government sanctioned pirate given “letters of marque.” These protected him from hanging if captured.

Sir Francis Drake

Privateer and sea captain extrodinaire, the legendary Sir Francis Drake, a self-made man detested by the old noblility, rose to the rank of British Admiral and defeated the Spanish Armada.

Earlier as a privateer, Drake collected his fleet in the North Sound before sailing with Sir John Hawkins to attack Puerto Rico. Drake’s Golden Hind is shown here.

“El Draque,” as the Spanish called him, was buried at sea in a lead coffin off Nombres de Dios on the Spanish Main, where in 1573 his illustrious career began when he plundered a “silver train” of mules headed for Spain’s annual Tierra Firme treasure fleet.

“Freebooter’s Gangway”

In those days, the Sir Francis Drake Channel was called “Freebooters Gangway,” a freebooter being a term for a pirate. The nearby Anegada Passage was the entrance to the Caribbean and the protected waters of The Channel attracted merchantmen and pirates alike.

Pirate Ships

Pirates and privateers favored ships with shallow drafts, especially the Bermudan or jib-headed sloop, noted for its speed and handling. The Jamaican sloop, built of red cedar, was also well regarded for sea worthiness and speed. A sloop in the 17th and 18th centuries described various small ships of which a schooner was one variety.

North Sound

The North Sound in particular lies astride The Passage and The Channel. Fronting the North Sound is the still mysterious Eustatia Sound where local knowledge affords escape “back doors” or exits through gaps in the treacherous reefs that even modern charter captains fear. Some modern charts still show Eustatia Sound, incorrectly, as being a few scant feet deep and unsailable.

Pirate Escape Route

An alternative, but little used, entrance/exit to the North Sound, goes behind Saba Rock’s reef in an “S” transit through an opening between the islands around the back of Eustatia Island and out a little used gap in Eustatia Reef at Prickley Pear’s Opuntia Point.

This “pirate escape route” could be used to lure pursuers onto the intervening reef shallows. Fit for fantasy pirate map, now this fun route takes the adventurous snorkeling or beachcombing by dinghy.

Dead Man’s Chest

Marooning was a common pirate punishment. After a mutiny, the notorious Blackbeard is said to have marooned 15 men on Dead Man’s Chest with only a bottle of rum. Hence the ditty:

“15 men on a Dead Man’s Chest,
yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”

Going into battle, Blackbeard stuck slowly burning matches in his hair. See On Captain Teach, alias Blackbeard, When Blackbeard Scourged the Seas and Queen Anne’s Revenge?

Pirate Priest

“As Ridge Road finally dips to the North Beach Coast, half way down to Windy Hill are the overgrown stone walls and other ruins of the18th century St. Michael’s Church, reputedly headed by a pirate priest who used this vantage to spy passing ships, now usually charter boats.”See Tour Tortola by Land.

Treasure Island

Often called Treasure Island for its association with Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the BVI’s Norman Island was reputed to be a favorite hangout of pirates while legends of buried treasure still persist. See more pirate books.

A beautiful day to learn something new.

Teaching how to cook Salmon

On Sunday the 28th of March a special event happens in South Florida.

The Deering Bay Seafood festival entertains thousands. Myself and a few other notable chefs go on stage to educate and entertain the crowds with tidbits of culinary wisdom.

I was the first of four South Florida’s noted chefs and demo’ed a Antillean spiced, Guava glazed Salmon.

The recipe follows:

This dish is combination of recipes from “In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks” by chef/author Michael Bennett.

Serves: 6

This recipe can be made in stages.

Make the Antillean spices and then cover fillets of salmon and set aside to let absorb the flavors. Apply the spice again to the fish fillets before searing on top the grills of a wood-fire grill. Save the rest for other recipes and garnishing the plate.

Then, make the sauce reduce, and glaze the salmon to let the flavors meld into the fillets. As the sauce is reducing make the rice and the avocado salad. Glaze the salmon with the reduced sauce after searing and then bake in a 350-DEGREE oven for 11 per inch of thickness.

After the filets come out of the oven, glaze again with the sauce before placing on the plate. Plate the rice on the plate using a stainless steel pyramid mold. The again using a round stainless steel mold, fill it the with avocado salad and lift the mold upward to leave a stack of the salad. Place the rice about 10:00 on the plate, the Avocado tower about 2:00 on the plate and set the cooked fillet of salmon at 6:00 on the plate. Garnish with the frisee and micro-greens. Drizzle the white spaces on the plate with a little extra sauce.


5 LBS. Salmon side, enough for six,

7 oz. portions Antillean Spice:

5 tbs. Pink peppercorns

3 tbs. Green peppercorns

4 tbs. Sea salt

2 tbs. Poultry spice

4 tbs. Mrs. Dash seasoning blend

4 tbs. Paprika

1 tbs. each Mustard, Cayenne Pepper, Curry Powder

1 tbs. Mace

4 tbs. Granulated Garlic

2 tbs. Ginger powder

INSTRUCTIONS FOR ANTILLEAN SPICE: Grind all the whole spices with the sea salt in a coffee grinder. Then add to food processor to mix with the other ingredients. Use to dust the salmon fillets before cooking. Sear the spices into the fillets by cooking quickly in a sauté pan.

Spicy Guava BBQ SAUCE:


1 can Guava puree (10 oz.)

3/4 cup Key lime juice

1 pint Chablis white wine

3 oz. Rum, dark

2 tbs. Garlic kernels, roasted, smashed fine

1/4 teas. Star anise, ground

1/3 cup B.B.Q. sauce-like “open pit”

1 teas. Scotch Bonnet, fine chopped

1 pint Chicken stock, half-reduced

1 oz. Sriracha sauce, found in Asian markets

1/2 each Vanilla bean, split

Instructions: In a stainless steel pot, cook the first three ingredients and reduce to a pulpy slurry over high heat. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over a medium high heat to reduce to a glaze, maybe 15 minutes longer. After all the sauce is flavored, strain to remove the garlic, chilies and vanilla bean. Cool and refrigerate.



1 cup Arugula, cleaned and dry

2 each Avocado, cut up

½ cup Citrus sections, fresh cut sections

½ cup Tomato, concasse (chopped no skin or seeds)

4 oz. Yogurt cheese, (Lebanese)
1 teas. Pink peppercorns

2 tbs. Cilantro, chopped

½ teas. Sea salt


4 cups Basmati – mango rice

Directions for veggies and starch:

Cook the rice following normal cooking for basmati rice. (Using 1.25 times amount of water as rice and then season). Add 1 mango (diced) to the rice after it comes out of the cooker. Lean the cooked salmon fillet against the rice. Glaze with sauce and let drain down onto the plate.

Next; Mix the cheese with flavorings and spices then add the avocado, tomato and citrus with the arrugula last – in a bowl. Mix all to make into a thickened melange. Place this mixture into a ring mold and place onto the plate. Press down on the mixture while moving the mold up. Garnish the unmolded veggies with baby frisse and micro greens. Garnish the rim of plate with a dusting of the Antillean Caribbean spice.

Latest review on my cookbook, “In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks”.

Bimini Boatyard Chef Dishes Up a Pair of Cookbooks
By Bill Citara in Restaurant NewsTue., Jan. 5 2010 @ 6:34AM

Yellowtail dish
Snapper Viaquez

Put the eclectic flavors of South Florida — the “New American Riviera” — on your own kitchen table with pair of new cookbooks from a Fort Lauderdale chef.

Michael Bennett, top toque at Bimini Boatyard, dishes the tricks and techniques of his “Caribb-ican” cuisine in his just-released In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, then continues exploring the melding of Caribbean and American cuisines in the soon-to-debut Underneath a Cloudless Sky.

The books are the product of four years of traveling the Caribbean and soaking up
its culinary heritage before taking over the Boatyard’s kitchen in 2008. In addition to putting a more healthful spin on Caribbean-esque cookery, the books serve up a roster of sauces, marinades, glazes, mops, and rubs that can be matched to a variety of meats, fish, and poultry.

As Bennett puts it, “These recipes are open to experimentation and are only limited by the vastness of your imagination. I organized the book so you don’t think you have to use a certain sauce with a certain entree. The recipes are separated in a multitude of combinations — with your taste buds being the only decisive restriction.”

Misfits and Sky are both available here, as well as at, Johnson & Wales, Epicure Market in Miami, and L’Hermitage in Fort Lauderdale.

Yellowtail dish
Snapper Viaquez

Amazon review of this book:

For a “staycation” in the Caribbean on your dining room table or deck, January 11, 2010
By A. Chandler “ArtistAlana” (Austin, TX) – See all my reviews

With the majority of my cookbooks, I seek out books that have ingredients that are easy to find, insructions that are uninvolved, and comfort foods. However, there are a few standout cookbooks that might throw in some ingredients I need to make a special trip to find, and are worth it.

This is one and it is worth it. But don’t get me wrong, you’ll have many of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge now. But you’ll also discover dishes that might require a jaunt to the Asian food market or the internet and are worth the work to “make it happen” such as the ingredients “Annona Puree” or “Cherimoya” for the goat cheese spread. But these are recipes that bring the taste of fine dining to your home in my opinion. The book notes that the author is a chef and that shows…the dishes burst with many flavors and sauces and that is the reason I gave the book 5 stars. This is a unique cookbook but it stands true to the flavors of the Caribbean.

We recently got a “Big Green Egg” for our deck which is an odd cross between a grill, clay cookery, and a smoker. In spite of it being freezing outside, we’ve been keeping it busy a couple nights a week ever since. This cookbook made me happy with great choices of island style sauces and rubs and seasonings such as the Jack Daniels basting glaze, jerk seasoning, mojo marinade, sun coast seafood spice rub, etc. which was my goal for this island cookbook addition to my already massive cookbook collection.

But don’t think it’s a sauce or seasoning cookbook. That is just one of the many components. Granted, many of the recipes call for sauces that are made from other recipes in the book, but that’s the beauty of it. You can make a sauce to baste on chicken one night and then utilize the sauce another night as the base of an entire recipe. As one would expect in a Caribbean inspired cookbook, there are several combos of fish with the sweetness of island sauces or fruit, such as the pineapple coconut salmon, which is nothing short of gorgeous and a wealth of flavors that fuse perfectly. There are also meat and chicken dishes that pop with the heat of chiles which is always welcome in this Austin home.

There are recipes for grill basting, oven recipes, and stovetop dishes. There is everything from salads to kabobs to towering sculptural main dishes and some of the most unique side dishes packed with flavor I’ve seen.

There are photos interspersed throughout the book on some of the dishes that give ideas of serving them truly “5 star restaurant style”.

Though there is no nutritional info in the book, as a weight loss coach I can say that one of the good things about the book is that flavor is infused in dishes without needing to smother proteins in anything artificial or unhealthy in most cases.

Bottom line: yeah, I had to buy some ingredients like “Caribbean oil” or “pickled ginger” but once in a blue moon I consider recipe collections worth a few special trips or internet searches to get the right flavors and this one, in my opinion, is. These are original recipes but they concentrate on solid bursts of flavor combos that make dinner time truly a Caribbean “staycation”.

The book is almost 200 pages lon

A view above the planes

Living above a flight path to the local airport was new to us.

Me in my home office

The plane, the plane!

Became a running joke between myself and the rest of the family. I loved the idea of living high up on a mountain. Living in the Caribbean meant a lot of things, this was one of them. Many Caribbean Islands are actually extinct volcanoes.

It was so strange coming from Miami – with no altitude – to the Caribbean where driving up to your home, ears pop. We never had this problem in Miami, my daughter says. Our first car we rented couldn’t get up the driveway to our home. The driveway was at such a steep incline my little four cylinder rent a car couldn’t get all of us up the hill.

Living above airplanes did have its advantages. Neighbors were scarce. We were one of two homes a top this mountain peak. This of course had its disadvantages, like electricity and phone service. We were six months waiting for a phone line to be run to the top of the mountain. Electricity was almost as rare. Many days electricity was out for six or seven hours at a time. Being on an island meant all electricity for the island was created by diesel generators. If the generators broke down, it took hours for a service man to come and fix it.

Another fun fact about living on top a mountain, no phones. Try that with two teenage daughters. One of the things I had to do is drop off the girls downtown before I went to work everyday, so they could use the local coffee shop internet connection. Connections with the rest of the world were strained. We found that having a home in the clouds was a challenge in many ways. Comfort, locale, being away from others and when you want to go grocery shopping, it was a journey you had to prepared for.

Being on an island in the middle of the ocean, seclusion is an unique experience. For some it is a break from the day to day hectic “real” world, for others places like this are resort locations for beach fun and ocean sailing. For me it was all about the seclusion and isolation – to think about my life how it has proceeded and what I was going to do with the rest of it. Being a man of a certain age, this isolation was the point were I decide to finish an already started project. This is how my two cookbooks came so quickly for me after returning to the mainland of the United States.

Living in the clouds – above where planes travel – literally and in my own inner-self’s thoughts made it easy for me to put words to print quickly.  I rewrote my unfinished cookbook – that was sitting on my shelf for the past ten years and renamed it “In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks” after the people and things that I found while living in the Caribbean.

The stories in the book are all about living and working as a chef in the Caribbean.  You can see this book at:  Amazon –

You soon be able to buy it at all Barnes and Nobles stores.

Chef Michael Bennett’s new cookbook first book review

Book Review: In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks
In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks
by Michael Bennett and Eileen Bennett Clark
Published by The Professional Image
ISBN: 978-0615297781

Mango, crab, papaya, coconut, salmon, avocado and lobster, so many wonderful delights from nature are plentiful in the Caribbean. With nature’s overflowing bounty of tropical fruits, vegetables, fresh seafood and amazing spices it’s no surprise that Chef/Author Michael Bennett has penned a Caribbean-style cookbook from his years of living amongst the Islands.

Chef Bennett’s first book is titled “In the land of Pirates, Misfits and Cooks”, a first-hand “taste of living” in the Caribbean. Bennett has coined the term “Caribb-ican” a cross between Caribbean and American styles of food preparation. To excite one’s palate and to experiment with new methods of cooking and innovative ingredients makes the old new again. Chef Bennett takes the reader on playful culinary journeys throughout the many islands of the Caribbean showing you that with a little ingenuity you can bedazzle your taste buds by being tropically inspired with what Mother Nature has already given us.

The recipes are easy to read, easy to follow and easy to prepare. This book was designed with simplicity in mind to appeal to the most novice of home cooks yet intrigue the experienced cook at the same time. The ingredients are readily available at your local grocery store making this exciting style of cooking accessible at a moment’s notice without much plan other than having the ingredient list with you as you shop. On most pages there are sidebars that highlight cooking tips, preparation tricks and “inside information” as it pertains to healthy eating and variations on the preparation of the dish.

The photos highlight Bennett’s signature style of presentation “food stacking”. Bennett creates towers and rises with his food, Bennett clearly defines “playing with food”, you will never just get food on a plate with Michael Bennett, you will get works of art carefully constructed. This may seem daunting to the average home cook but in true teaching style Chef Bennett explains in detail “how to play with your food”, this alone is worth having the book as you become an honorary Pirate, Misfit and Cook of the Carrib-ican style of cooking.

– Review by Christine Najac

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