At Mesob in Midtown Kansas City, chef-owner Cherven Desauguste uses French-inspired culinary techniques to prepare Caribbean and Ethiopian cuisine with a refined presentation. Raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Desauguste eventually moved to Miami and briefly studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami. He interned at a fine-dining seafood restaurant before working as a cook at hotels, casinos and catering jobs.

In 1999, he moved to Kansas City to be closer to family and learned about a wide variety of cuisines and styles while working in kitchens across the area, including Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa and Lakewood Oaks Golf Club in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. His first restaurant, Mesob Pikliz, closed a few years ago, but not long after, Desauguste found the Broadway Boulevard location for his current expanded concept. Following a nearly two-year build out, Desauguste opened Mesob this past spring with a fine-dining approach to two wholly different cuisines.

Besides the location, how is the new Mesob different from your previous restaurant? I now have double the kitchen space, so I’m able to boost the Caribbean side of the menu and put a focus on plating and presentation. It’s the same base, but I give customers more bold flavor and technique. In Haitian cuisine, you don’t [usually] cook with wine, [but] I manipulate a dish like oxtail or Poulet Maison [oven-roasted half-chicken with Chardonnay-Creole sauce] by adding wine for acidity and complexity while keeping the bold flavor. I go beyond red beans and rice to showcase native cuisine like goat stew, legumes and black mushroom rice. I added papayas and use beets as a natural, bright coloring agent in my legumes [a dish with many stewed vegetables] instead of traditional acidic tomato paste – I adapted a century-old dish as a professional chef who knows how to manipulate ingredients.

Why do you emphasize presentation in your dishes? In Haiti, you eat food because it tastes good. It is food on one plate with no art or focus on presentation. I gravitate to different fine-dining looks to make plates beautiful. The eyes tell us what we’re about to eat.

What are the differences between Ethiopian and Caribbean cuisine? Caribbean food from Haiti, Jamaica and Barbados uses fresh fruit, herbs, garlic and marinades. Ethiopian relies on dry spices, such as berbere, for flavor, like in India. Mesob will never be fusion; native customers know how the food is supposed to taste, so I keep the menus and flavors separate. I focus on the integrity of the dish and ingredients. I try to sell flavor and experience – small details are important. Flavor is like building a house step by step, such as sweating garlic or okra, to get the right end result.

Tell us about your favorite dish. A chef gravitates to what he or she likes to cook: I love seafood. Seafood is delicate – I can manipulate it with sweetness, wine or bitterness to create profound flavor. You have more control and creativity than with meat. My interpretation of cioppino uses mussels, Chilean sea bass, lobster and blue crab, but it is more like a stew with coconut milk, saffron and fennel for Caribbean flavor. I make a nest of angel hair pasta with boursin and Parmesan cheeses and set it on top of the seafood stew.

Mesob, 3600 Broadway Blvd. #105, Midtown, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.492.5099, mesobkc.com

Writer Pete Dulin is the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across Central Kansas and Missouri.

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