Chef Seth Saheli, partially blind but creating your next recipe

Chef Seth Saheli's cookbook The Next Recipe - Caribbean Cuisines

I love being a private chef. . . . I love creating memories, the reactions from the clients, being able to bring smiles and amazement to their faces and of course pleasure to their pallets! Many times, we become lifelong friends and continue to keep in touch. This is very rewarding and I am truly grateful for that.

If you’re going through a similar situation, once you have life and you can acquire a positive outlook, you can still accomplish your goals and your dreams.

Cooking Background

As a young child my mom cooked on a daily basis, until she eventually opened a small but very popular restaurant. At home on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, I would sit on a high stool in the kitchen observing her every move and taking mental notes. I was eventually able to help at the restaurant when I got older my love for cooking really grew. As I entered into adulthood, although I was always cooking, I never saw it as a career. I was focused on Business Management and Marketing, my preferred career path at that time, fueled too because of my father who was a salesman and business owner.

During my adult life, I held job titles such as General Manager and Marketing Manager. I was quite comfortable but always felt something was missing – I felt incomplete, until one day I woke up with a bright idea. Why not start a business based on my love for cooking – after all, I constantly received compliments from my family and colleagues!

So, this is where it began. I created Meaningful Mealz, a daily lunch delivery service targeting the business/working sector who had the challenges of the dealing with the lunch time rush, tight traffic, short lunch break etc. I had experience managing restaurants and was also kitchen manager, securing a wealth of experience from fast food operations to high end fine dining but as the business progressed, I improved my skills by taking online culinary courses and even shifted from the Management field and sought experience in more culinary-based businesses. My opportunities expanded to include corporate catering, private chef concierge services, and culinary consultancy. Over the years, my skills, experience and talents directed me into now becoming a cookbook author, which I am very honoured and grateful to have accomplished.

Partial blindness

Over the past few years, even today, I’m being plagued with eye challenges, from having to wear glasses to regular eye discomforts. I went through a variety of eye procedures and surgeries and it has been quite a bit of a struggle.

Late 2019, my vision was extremely bad and I was experiencing a series of eye pains. I was scheduled for laser eye surgery which would have helped my vision and my options were to either go overseas or book an appointment for have surgery done in St. Kitts as a team of US ophthalmologist were scheduled to visit the island. My appointment was scheduled April 2020, but unknowingly, Covid-19 had other plans. By that date, our country was shut down, all borders were closed, no flights were coming in or out, and no travelling to anywhere allowed. I therefore lost the opportunity to have my eye surgery done and because of this, about a month later, I lost all vision in my right eye.

It was a tremendously heart wrenching time for me, so devastating that I worried and stressed to such an extend that I had to be hospitalized for three weeks. It was by far the lowest point in my life, and I lost all hope. Through all of my anguish, I kept my faith but I would lie on the hospital bed and ask “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I’m not a bad person, I take care of my family, my responsibilities, I care for and help so many people, I love God, so why did this have to happen to me?.”

I must admit, I lost hope, but with the love, care and encouragement of my mom and family, I was able to see a glimmer of light and started to suppress my negative thoughts. With continuous prayer and positive thoughts I began to accept my fate.

When I got out of the hospital, I had to make drastic changes in my life based on my now disability. It wasn’t life as usual for me anymore. I had to resort to living with family as being blind in one eye and the other eye not being 100% functional meant that I would need assistance. It also meant that I wouldn’t be able to work as efficiently and effectively at the level that I and my clients were used to. Reality of life soon became my main focus.

I recall the doctors’ visits at the hospital always created mixed feelings for me. I was told yes, I am recovering physically overall, but I would never be able to see out of my right eye again. Every time I heard this, it got me down but I started thinking: “I wasn’t dead, I was only slowed down. I had life, and with life there are still endless possibilities.” Then it dawned on me – I should finish my cookbook. Alas! Here was something positive and meaningful I can focus on while I was lying on my hospital bed.

From the many private chef jobs I did for visitors to my island, I had already started putting recipes together in my mind with the thought that maybe one day I’d have my own book. Before my partial blindness, I was encouraged by a good friend in Canada to look into publishing a cookbook to capture all of the wonderful dishes I would have created during my career as a chef. So, it was then clear to me what I wanted to do next.

After making all the necessary decisions and adjustments to my life, I was determined to continue with my book and gave myself a deadline to get it completed by early 2021. I put my thoughts together and with the assistance of my loving sister, Amal, who lives on the island of Antigua, I was able to start my book. I would call her daily, give her the recipes, procedures, measurements etc. and she would type them out for me.

I was challenged by my lack of vision, the daily eye pain and rigors of my new life, but it only motivated me more. With the continued assistance of family and loved ones, I was able to complete my book. It was published and available on Amazon by November 2020.

With my disability and its constant challenges, being able to produce and publish my cookbook has given me great satisfaction, because this is one way that I can inspire and motivate others. I want to show others out there who are going through the same or similar situation whether health-related or other, that once you have life and acquire a positive outlook, you can still accomplish your goals and dreams. You may help someone to achieve happiness by being their inspiration.