Tale of the plate: “Shrab” Cakes with citrus habanero aioli

Cuisine People

September 28, 2023

Chef Will Williams shares a seafood recipe that reminds him of home.

by Asha Ellison  |  photographs by Peter Taylor

Chef William Williams, 34, is proud of his Caribbean heritage and the South Floral Park, N.Y., neighborhood that raised him. The private chef and caterer was born to Jamaican parents in a melting pot of cultures, expanding his palate and influencing his cooking techniques through the years. Yet, for Chef Will, it’s seafood — the most distinct cuisine from his childhood — that remains close to his heart. 

“Seafood was and still is a family favorite,” Williams says while recalling the crustaceans and fresh fish that transformed his life. “I remember my mom cooking whole red snapper on the grill, stuffed with callaloo (a Jamaican leafy-green dish) or collards.” 

Chef Will credits his mother as both his teacher and his greatest inspiration for navigating the kitchen, a journey that began when he was just 10 years old making scratch-made pizzas with fun toppings. By the time he reached his junior year of high school, the flourishing home cook knew he was destined for a culinary career. In 2011, Chef Will, who subscribes to renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson’s belief that “hard work is its own reward,” graduated from Johnson & Wales University.

In 2014, Chef Will — who also likes preparing Thai food and, when he’s not in the kitchen, enjoys hiking — opened Seasoned Provisions, a private, all-occasion catering company in Charlotte. As a private chef, he works to cultivate memorable group dining experiences that warm souls, whet appetites and, simply, win hearts. Leading live cooking demonstrations on TV and serving as a chef to professional athletes are pleasures Chef Will is grateful to have on his growing resume.

“I want guests to experience the flavor and love that goes into my food,” Williams says. It’s the kind of love — and deliciousness — that lingers long after the first bite. It’s the best flavors of his childhood: a little crab and a little shrimp, breaded together with panko, Old Bay and bits of magic, that make the “Shrab” cake recipe he shares today. 

Be sure to save this one — you never know when you’ll need to win someone over.

“Shrab” Cakes with citrus habanero aioli

by Will Williams

serves 8-10


2 large eggs

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

16 ounces lump crab meat

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

8 ounces roughly chopped shrimp

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Citrus habanero aioli:

1 cup mayonnaise, such as Hellmann’s or Dukes

1/2 teaspoon minced habanero pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450 F

For the citrus habanero aioli: Mix mayonnaise, habanero, Dijon mustard, vinegar, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and parsley together in a large bowl. Place aioli in the fridge for later use.

For the “Shrab” cakes: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently. Form one-ounce mini shrab cake balls by hand and place on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan.

Bake for 15– 20 minutes or until the cakes have a golden-brown color.

Plate and top with aioli, or serve it on the side.  SP

To learn more about Chef Will Williams, visit seasonedprovisions.com and follow him on Instagram at @seasonedprovisions.


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