One wouldn’t think that a career in fast food would inspire a person to do and be more, but that is exactly what happened to Chef Allan Bachan who is now the owner of the catering and private chef service, Hungry Nature TT.
With his passion for food Bachan, 36, wanted to experiment with colours, textures, and flavours. He wanted to produce what he liked and give clients a taste of well-known dishes with a gourmet twist.
So, in 2018, after working in kitchens for over 16 years, he decided to go solo.
He said three points brought him to the name Hungry Nature – all humans get hungry so they are hungry by nature, nature inspired many of his dishes, and he wanted to use as many fresh, local ingredients as possible.
“I try to bring a gourmet select to the poor man’s pocket because not everyone could go sit down and eat a steak for $500. I don’t run a restaurant with overheads and whatnot so you could come by me and have that steak and I will only charge for my ingredients and time. So I can give the poor man the opportunity to eat something fancy and nice and pretty without paying that pretty cost.”
He went further in 2020 when he created a branch of Hungry Nature TT called In The Middle. At the “gourmet sandwich adventure” he produces burgers and sandwiches with various toppings, sauces and add-ons.
Where else can you go for a eastern lamb burger with roasted feta cheese and a balsamic dressing? Or a pulled goat sandwich?
“Sandwiches are one of the most comforting things you could eat. It’s very personal – you get to hold it, take control of it, eat it how you want.”
The Pointe-a-Pierre native is in the process of re-branding and rebuilding the menu. In the meantime, sandwiches could be ordered through Hungry Nature TT.
He also makes and sells a popular pepper sauce called Izz Dat Sauce, and a Fire Coconut Chutney with surprising flavours and spices.
Bachan told Sunday Newsday the first meal he ever made was rice and curry chicken, which he learned to cook from his great grandmother at the age of eight.
“She said, ‘You see when you get older, don’t let no woman buss style on you. If your wife wants to go and leave and don’t cook nothing, you don’t worry. Come let me show you how to cook.’”
He continued to cook through secondary school and grew to like it, so decided to make it his career. As soon as he finished secondary school at the age of 17, he started to work at a grill place at Grand Bazaar.
“I was young. I was driven by freedom. I wanted to do certain things for myself so I wanted to make my own money.
“And in a commercial kitchen there’s so much pace and speed and action. And I am a very high-energy person so between the cooking, money and action, I was enjoying myself.”
However, his passion for cooking truly ignited when he started to work for Hot Subs at around age 22.
He said the business was in a fast food environment but it was “finer” dining as everything was prepared by hand. The employees seasoned, cured, smoked, and sliced their own meats, prepared their own sauces and syrups, and made their own juices. He learned about cooking tools, how ingredients complement each other, and new cooking techniques.
“In that kitchen, the types of ingredients we got to play around with was amazing. It was gourmet fast food. I saw a whole different world. I learned you could cut tomatoes and cucumbers in ten different ways. I learned about ingredients and how they really worked. It was incredible and I decided I wasn’t going nowhere from this industry.”
He recalled the owner allowing him to bring his own ingredients, use the Hot Subs kitchen and experiment with food on his own time. But he started to crave the freedom to create his own dishes and flavours, as well as to set his own working hours. So he taught himself even more from the internet, which is also how he keeps up-to-date with new tools, techniques and trends.
“Once you have that drive to do something, you don’t need to go through any specific route. Just take the initiative because in this day and age experience is way more valuable than a degree.
“To be a chef you really have to have that fire inside of you and always have it on high flame because that is what will keep you going.”
Bachan’s other passion is music which he said is important for when he needs to “release energy in another direction.”
Since secondary school he has been playing the bass guitar with the Caribbean punk rock, Anti-Everything.
“Some of it is loud and aggressive while some is chill, but throughout we send a really positive messages with our music. It’s against all the negatives things in the world like violence and racism.”
He said he felt a connection with rock music from an early age as it felt electric and full of energy. As a result he wanted to play an instrument so when he saw some friends playing the guitar in school, he decided to teach himself.
He added that he cannot work in a quiet kitchen as music works hands-in-hand with his food. He could listen to a song and visualise a dish that is in harmony with the music. For example, a soothing song might result in a creamy soup, or an energetic song might result in something spicy and crunchy.
This was evident in his menu for the rock concert, Resurgence, on June 25 at Skyy View Lounge, San Fernando. He designed a signature burger for each of the three performing bands – LYNCHPiN, Goodnight Parliament, and Mindscape Laboratory – and named the burgers after a song from each band. Also available were seasoned fries and deep fried mac and cheese balls with bacon.
Bachan plans to expand his private chef services to one day offer fine dining.
“Times have changed. Opening a restaurant is not feasible for me at this time. Dining has changed and, at the moment, people are gravitating towards street food. I want to blend the two to create a nice dining experience at home or at an outdoor location with a full restaurant feel.”