On Friday, March 20, food lovers will gather in Ocho Rios to witness the first ever Jamaica Jerk Challenge, featuring self-taught Jamaican Executive Chef Cheryl Smith of Cheryl’s Global Soul in Brooklyn, New York as well as UK celebrity chef, Antony Worrall Thompson. Both chefs will take on some of the world’s leading Jerk chefs in an exclusive cook-off, including “The Home of Jerk” Boston, Jamaica Chef Rupert Bourne and Ocho Rios’ own Scotchies’ Jerk Specialist Mark “Max” Miller. The judging panel will include celebrated chef authors and key food players including Virginia Burke, Gariel Ferguson and Dennis McIntosh. This highly esteemed team of judges will conduct a blind tasting before announcing the winner of the Jamaica Jerk Challenge.
John Lynch, Director of Tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board commented, “Jamaican cuisine is quite literally a melting pot of the world’s flavours and just one mouthful can reflect the island’s textured heritage. Jerk is our signature dish and is both tasty and original so it seemed like a great idea to host this challenge with some incredibly talented chefs from different countries and backgrounds. This initiative should help to showcase Jamaican cuisine to travelers who might not otherwise think to sample some of the more traditional dishes during a trip to Jamaica”.
About Jerk Cuisine
Jerk is Jamaica’s signature dish and originated with the Maroons, descendents of slaves freed by their Spanish masters and who defied capture by the British by fleeing to the island’s most remote mountain areas. Jerk was originally made in a pit dug in the ground. This method would have kept smoke to a minimum thus avoiding detection by the British who roamed the forests. The meat is first marinated for hours in an incendiary mixture of seriously hot Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, allspice, ginger, scallions, thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is then slowly cooked over a fire-pit of pimento wood, whereupon the food remains tender and delights the consumer with its hot, succulent and aromatic blend of earthy Caribbean deliciousness. The term jerk refers to the marinade as well as the method of cooking various fish and meats, which are barbequed slowly outdoors.
There are a number of festivals throughout the year in Jamaica which celebrate Jerk, including Accompong Maroon Festival, the Epicurean Escape and the Portland Jerk Festival. Visitors can experience this delicacy all around Jamaica, in locations that include Scotchies and Faith’s Pen. Although Jerk can be found all over Jamaica, the most authentic Jerk can be found in Boston Bay, in north-eastern Jamaica.
About Cheryl Smith
Cheryl Smith, former star of the Food Network’s Melting Pot, is a self-taught chef whose knowledge of cuisine spans the globe from classical French, contemporary pan-Asian, Pacific Rim, Moroccan, right down to home-style American. She’s been featured on Soul Kitchen, My Country/My Kitchen, Emeril’s Holiday Special, Sara Moulton’s Cooking Live, Sweet Dreams with Gayle Gand, Gordon Elliot’s Door-Knock Dinners, In Food Today, Chef du Jour and Ready, Set, Cook! Cheryl worked as the Executive Chef at Marion’s Restaurant and A Go-Go Catering in Manhattan. After that she cooked in some of the finest kitchens in New York City: Sol’s, Match, Tocquiville, Lola, Nikkta, Bambou, and The Butta’ Cup.
About Antony Worrell Thompson
Award-winning chef Antony is a well-known TV personality. He opened his first restaurant, Ménage à Trois in Knightsbridge in 1991 and currently has two restaurants Windsor Grill and Kew Grill. Antony became the resident studio chef and main presenter for BBC2’s Food & Drink programme and was previously a Ready Steady Cook regular.