Meet Formerly Trained Painter Turned Self-Taught Chef Ralph Motta
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Name: Ralph Motta

Profession: Chef

Age: 24

I have contributed to my industry by elevating our acceptance and appreciation of Caribbean cuisine in fine dining.

Ralph Motta, a formerly trained painter turned self-taught chef, is a “rebel with a cause” redefining what it means to be successful in the culinary world. “I have noticed that in the field of culinary arts, being formally trained and educated in a specific or narrow discipline has the potential to create imaginary boundaries and obstacles. People may feel the need to follow the steps established by their predecessors in their field in order to make a name for themselves in the future. However, in reality it is the person who isn’t afraid to step outside the lines who becomes a leader and makes a lasting impact in their field,” said Motta.

As the founder of Motta Cuisine, a catering company comprised of native virgin islanders, he creates authentic Crucian by marrying new age techniques with cuisines from the seven countries that have played a role in the history of the Virgin Islands which allows him to showcase his true style of cooking—a French-American Crucian fusion. “Being a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands really helped to shape my culinary style. Growing up, both of my parents played a defining role in teaching me the history and culture behind Crucian cuisine. My mother instilled in me the skills needed for baking taught to her by both her mother and grandmother. She also taught me the basics for preparing many traditional Crucian dishes. I credit my father with giving me a wealth of knowledge of the sea. From lobsters, crabs and barracudas to parrot fish, conch and whelks, my dad has taught me all the proper techniques for preparing each protein.”

At a time when black chefs are grossly underrepresented in the culinary industry, Chef Motta’s approach to carving out his own lane is a bold yet commendable step towards changing the conversation about what it takes to make an impact in the fine dining world as a black chef. Chef Motta offers his perspective and words of advice on getting ahead.
Chef Motta offers his perspective and words of advice on getting ahead. “One can argue that there are some sectors of society in which men of color are valued and championed, but on the whole, I do not believe we are recognized or celebrated enough. Unfortunately, the larger society has developed and honed this construct to a point in which men of color are perceived to be of the same level of class, intelligence, education, and achievement. In many ways, it is just as difficult as it was 30 or 40 years ago for a man of color to be appreciated by the mainstream.”

“Always remember that if you are not willing to put in the hard work it takes to make your dream a reality, you will spend your time working hard to help other people fulfill theirs. For me, being willing to take risks contributed the most to my success. I would add: Never be afraid to take a leap of faith because it just might be the one that leads you to greatness. Despite the lack of immediate success or revenue, try your best to never sell out or change your core principles. Stay true to your vision.”

Like many other entrepreneurs, Chef Motta understands there is no success without hardship. ” In the first year of launching Motta Cuisine my catering company made less than $5,000 despite promotions and advertising. It always helped to remind myself of the bigger picture every time I invested my savings into a new campaign or an order of culinary supplies.”

For Motta, sharing his journey—his successes, failures, and challenges, is one of the most rewarding parts of his job. “When up-and-coming professionals see someone of my age and race accomplishing my goals, it makes success seem more tangible and attainable. I am humbled to see the impact I am having. Knowing that younger chefs as well as siblings and community members are looking up to me is amazing. Being seen as someone who is helping to preserve and promote our Crucian culture and its authentic cuisine compels me to continue exploring the culinary arts. Eventually, I would like to expand my business to be able to employ some of the young chefs of color, he told BE Modern Man exclusively.

The BlackEnterprise.com team applauds Chef Ralph Motta for disrupting the status quo and creating his own opportunities in the culinary world. We are honored to call him a BE Modern Man.

It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.

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