By Naeisha Rose
First generation Haitian-Americans Marck and YvesMarie Benjamin will have a grand opening for their restaurant, Soul Exchange Bistro & Wine Bar, in early October in Queens Village.
While the spouses gear up for the celebration at 208-01 Jamaica Ave., they will be dishing out brunch Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. next week and continue hosting evening events.
“We are doing a fusion cuisine. It’s not going to be all Haitian or all Jamaican,” said YvesMarie Benjamin. “There is going to be a little bit of everything. We have an Asian dish, a Mediterranean dish, we have an American dish on there and we do have a Haitian dish.”
Soul Exchange, which is a brick and wood-layered Tuscan-styled restaurant, also offers up Caribbean, Indian and Latin dishes.
“We are catering to everybody and bringing something a little different,” said Benjamin. “One of our chefs is Haitian, so he has a Haitian and Caribbean background. Another one of our chefs is Puerto Rican and African-American, so he brings the Latin flair and our junior sous chef is Panamanian, and he has traveled to a lot of places and has a wonderful palette.”
Tyler Harrison, Soul Exchange’s executive chef, studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts (2010) in Orlando and lives in Rosedale.
“I’ve had my hands on Italian, Asian, American, of course, French and even glatt kosher [dishes],” said Harrison, 34. “I’ve seen a lot in the culinary world from large scale to small scale.”
Harrison has worked with Executive Chef David Kolotkin of Kaptivating Kosher Studio, Iron Chef Marc Forgione of Food Network fame, and Chef Ed Cotton, a winner of Top Chef on Bravo.
“We also have vegan and vegetarian options,” said Harrison. “What we are doing is trying to stop people from having to travel far to find great food.”
The chef, tired of having to leave southeast Queens to work in Manhattan, is glad to be giving back to his local community.
Soul Exchange has wines from South Africa, chosen from Black Hawk Imports in Farmingdale, L.I., by wine specialist Cassandra Arid.
“They are where we primarily get our wine and spirits from and the wines are absolutely fabulous,” said Benjamin.
The restaurant and wine bar already has held two Sip & Paint events and will have a weekly Ladies Night every Friday. On Aug. 30, it held an Open Mic Night filled with poetry, comedy and music. The chefs also catered a 75th birthday party and the restaurant was the site of a funeral repast dinner.
“I just want the community to come out and share their talents,” said Benjamin, who expects to hold an open mic night every Thursday.
Benjamin also plans on having a Wine-Not-Wednesdays event throughout the year starting in October.
“I hope it will be a big hit,” said Benjamin. “It’s going to be wine and cheese pairings.”
In October, Benjamin wants to also do a Paint Your Own Pumpkin event and in later months have special occasions for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
For their first Speakeasy Mondays they will have the jazz quartet TNT perform on Sept. 10. On Sept. 15 there will be a women’s empowerment seminar. On Sept. 22 there will be a third Sip and Paint event and a performance by the Paul Claro Band.
Food and drinks will range from $4 to $22.
“I want when you come to Soul Exchange Bistro and Wine Bar that you had an experience,” said Benjamin.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose