By Alex Popa + Photo by @rosemanticimages
Khainna “Khai” Sejour is the latest sensation to rock the culinary scene. The Florida-based Haitian-American entrepreneur is the creator of Khai Chiktay, a brand of spicy appetiser with a rich cultural history. Khai has captured the essence of Haitian cuisine in a jar and brought it overseas to a wider audience of chefs, home cooks, and food enthusiasts of all backgrounds.
Her spicy Chiktay is a hit with the local Haitian community and curious foodies looking to experience new flavours. After her initial small-scale success, the business owner wants to introduce Chiktay to even more people.
A Culinary Gamechanger
Khai Chiktay currently comes in three flavours. The most popular flavour, Chiktay Arenso, is herring-based. Chiktay Mori, which contains salted fish, is a good alternative for those who look for a mellow flavour. Finally, there’s the light and neutral Chiktay Kribish, which is shrimp-based.
One thing remains true of each bottle of Khai Chiktay: its complex flavour profiles always encompass the perfect mixture of satisfying umami, tangy freshness, and tongue-tingling spice. Khai says customers can’t get enough of the rich and spicy Chiktay experience. The brand has already amassed a small following of loyal customers, which includes chefs.
Humble Origins and Big Ambitions
Khai has spent some of her happiest times in the kitchen next to her mother. It was a family tradition for the two to make Chiktay on special occasions like birthdays, family gatherings, and religious holidays. “I’ve been making Chiktay since I was 15. I’ve had plenty of time to perfect my recipe,” she says.
“I’ve been making Chiktay since I was 15. I’ve had plenty of time to perfect my recipe,”
But it wasn’t until the recent pandemic that Khai was inspired to start her Chiktay business. With many restaurants and social events inaccessible due to lockdowns, the entrepreneur realised there was a new demand for novel culinary experiences. “More people started working from home and ordering in,” she says. “It was a good opportunity to try something new, and that’s where I decided to step in.”
Khai seized the opportunity to bring Haitian flavours to the local community and got to work as soon as possible. Starting with a small batch and a couple of customers, her business soon expanded to reach a sizable online clientele. The next steps in her business plan include expanding the range of Chiktay flavours and bringing the brand to supermarkets, restaurants, and an international audience.
Putting Love Back into Cooking
Khai believes food is a form of art, like music, painting, and dancing. It’s a form of expression that has no language or social barriers. Everyone enjoys delicious food and trying out new dishes and flavours. That’s why she thinks Chiktay is a good way to introduce people to Haitian culture.
Starting a condiment business was the perfect way for Khai to share both her passion for food and her heritage. The entrepreneur aims to help foodies from all over the world create new experiences and memories around the dining table. She also hopes to collaborate with NGOs to contribute to bigger causes like educating youth in disadvantaged communities.