Chef Denzil Richards of New Rochelle’s Alvin & Friends—What’s In His Fridge?

This month’s peep inside the darkest depths of a professional chef’s refrigerator.

Anything in there really old or of unknown origins? In my freezer, there are a few things with so much freezer burn I can’t tell what they are anymore. There’s nothing in my fridge past the expiration date, but I don’t go by that anyway. My wife does; I suppose opposites attract. 

Rate your fridge from 1 (an ungodly mess) to 10 (I may have OCD). A seven—it’s pretty neat. My wife gets the credit for that. If I were a bachelor however, my fridge would be just as neat, but only because there would be next to nothing in it. 

Any embarrassing fake foods, i.e., Cool Whip or Cheez Whiz, et cetera? Yes to Cool Whip. My wife loves strawberry shortcake but I made the mistake once of buying an actual strawberry shortcake. You see, she likes to assemble hers, buying the plain mini shortcakes, the strawberries—which she puts into sugar to macerate for a few hours resulting in nice, natural strawberry syrup—and the Cool Whip. This impresses me, as she is not a culinary person but a nurse at a Yonkers private-practice OB/GYN. 

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Fussy about any staple being organic, fair trade, et cetera? I don’t believe in buying organic in the US. I grew up on a farm in Jamaica with limited water and technology. We had livestock and produce that was raised naturally and the resulting product was generally smaller than what you see coming from the big food companies. I see chicken here labeled organic that is big like a turkey, and that should be yellow in color but is artificial white. Same issue with produce that is labeled organic but is too large. The bottom line is I don’t trust the certification process here that something labeled organic really is such. 

Most of the contents of your fridge are from what source? Fairway Market, plus a West Indian market on Boston Post Road in Baychester [Bronx] near where I live.  

More carnivore or herbivore? About 50/50; my wife is more of a carnivore and I’m the opposite—more fruit and veggies. She prepares a meat-heavy dinner every Sunday—the one night we are both home from work—and it’s usually braised ox tail, smothered pork chop, grilled shrimp, and broiled salmon. Maybe steamed string beans or corn on the cob, too—the only vegetables she’ll eat. 

How’s the dairy situation? She drinks whole milk, while I drink almond or soy milk. My own research is that a diet high in dairy makes you more susceptible to allergies. I don’t drink any milk or eat cheese or ice cream and not one cold in 15 years. 

Sweets/snacks? Fairway bakery apple pie for my wife and miniature tiramisu for myself. Yes, I know—tiramisu has dairy [mascarpone] in it, but I can’t resist. What good is life if you can’t enjoy the richer things? I stay on the straight and narrow most of time but leave 10 percent to pig out.  

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Let’s talk the really cold stuff, as in 32° F and below. We have a separate ‘big item’ freezer in the garage for when we have guests with items like leg of lamb and goat hind leg for curried goat stew. 

In my regular fridge’s freezer, there’s frozen red snapper—I fry it crispy and put escovitch on it, which is pickled veggies including Scotch bonnet peppers. Also, there’s Grape-Nuts ice cream from the Ice Cream Factory in Mount Vernon. They specialize in popular Caribbean ice cream flavors like guava and Grape-Nuts.  

What’s your favorite item hanging on the refrigerator?  A picture from the Sandals Resorts beach where we had our honeymoon.  

On top of the fridge? Cereal—Cheerios for me and Fruit Loops for my wife…oops, I mean for when my friends’ kids come over.                       

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