Sat | May 28, 2022

Top 21 Food stories for 2021

Published:Thursday | January 6, 2022 | 12:05 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer -
 The curried oxtail at Omar’s Kitchen is a top seller.
The curried oxtail at Omar’s Kitchen is a top seller.
Chef Adrian Morris’ moniker, ‘Hawt Chef’, is actually an acronym: Having a wonderful time cooking high-end foods.
Chef Adrian Morris’ moniker, ‘Hawt Chef’, is actually an acronym: Having a wonderful time cooking high-end foods.
Special toppings are available at The Porridge Shoppe, from freshly sliced bananas to granola, fruit and nut mixes. Your cup of cornmeal porridge will never be the same.
Special toppings are available at The Porridge Shoppe, from freshly sliced bananas to granola, fruit and nut mixes. Your cup of cornmeal porridge will never be the same.
Chef and owner of Omar’s Kitchen, Omar Walters.
Chef and owner of Omar’s Kitchen, Omar Walters.
Lisa and Christopher Binns, owners of Stush in the Bush, pause for a quick photograph during a Jamaica Tourist Board destination update-media tour and lunch at Stush in the Bush in St Ann.
Lisa and Christopher Binns, owners of Stush in the Bush, pause for a quick photograph during a Jamaica Tourist Board destination update-media tour and lunch at Stush in the Bush in St Ann.
Looking for ‘something good to eat in the neighbourhood’, Jon Yearwood, a seasoned entrepreneur and former high- school star footballer of Jamaican heritage, opened The Burger House in New York.
Looking for ‘something good to eat in the neighbourhood’, Jon Yearwood, a seasoned entrepreneur and former high- school star footballer of Jamaican heritage, opened The Burger House in New York.
Oneil Vernon is the first Jamaican to be appointed executive chef for RIU’s local operation.
Oneil Vernon is the first Jamaican to be appointed executive chef for RIU’s local operation.
Chef Roland Henry officially turned the keys in the doors of his own eatery in Maverley, RKK Restaurant and Catering.
Chef Roland Henry officially turned the keys in the doors of his own eatery in Maverley, RKK Restaurant and Catering.
Ackee and salt fish with a Mexican-Jamaican twist — breadfruit ‘tacos’.
Ackee and salt fish with a Mexican-Jamaican twist — breadfruit ‘tacos’.
The Raina’s Kitchen’s Chef Raina Josephs.
The Raina’s Kitchen’s Chef Raina Josephs.
Bobo Negus pressed on in 2021 with the selling of a variety of juices, despite having his bike stolen.
Bobo Negus pressed on in 2021 with the selling of a variety of juices, despite having his bike stolen.
Chef Rohan ‘fiahs’ up the pan, jerking up a feast for customers.
Chef Rohan ‘fiahs’ up the pan, jerking up a feast for customers.
Media personality-turned-recording artiste, now restaurateur, Yanique ‘Curvy Diva’ Barrett, opened her Dining With Curvy,  the restaurant,  on Valentine’s Day in 2021.
Media personality-turned-recording artiste, now restaurateur, Yanique ‘Curvy Diva’ Barrett, opened her Dining With Curvy, the restaurant, on Valentine’s Day in 2021.
Dining With Curvy, lhe restaurant, had something special on their menu for seafood lovers last Valentine’s Day - lobster and shrimp thermidor.
Dining With Curvy, lhe restaurant, had something special on their menu for seafood lovers last Valentine’s Day - lobster and shrimp thermidor.
This funnel cake from Lea’s Sugar-Coated Treats is topped with vanilla ice cream.
This funnel cake from Lea’s Sugar-Coated Treats is topped with vanilla ice cream.
Chef Christopher Pinder first visited Denmark in 1999 on the invitation of a friend. He returned in 2002 and has resided there ever since, making inroads in the food industry with his Pinder’s Café.
Chef Christopher Pinder first visited Denmark in 1999 on the invitation of a friend. He returned in 2002 and has resided there ever since, making inroads in the food industry with his Pinder’s Café.
Theresa Barrett shares a moment with Laxaymaca guests on September 21, 2019. Barrett says she enjoys observing the reactions from patrons to her culinary delights.
Theresa Barrett shares a moment with Laxaymaca guests on September 21, 2019. Barrett says she enjoys observing the reactions from patrons to her culinary delights.
Kingston native, Chef Theresa Barrett, started a restaurant at her new home in Mexico and landed the number one spot in our list of top Food stories in 2021.
Kingston native, Chef Theresa Barrett, started a restaurant at her new home in Mexico and landed the number one spot in our list of top Food stories in 2021.
Traditional rice and peas and fried chicken served with raw vegetables from RKK Restaurant and Catering.
Traditional rice and peas and fried chicken served with raw vegetables from RKK Restaurant and Catering.
Laxaymaca offers delicious Jamaican fare, including ackee and salt fish.
Laxaymaca offers delicious Jamaican fare, including ackee and salt fish.
Jamaica lost chef extraordinaire Colin Hylton in April 2021.
Jamaica lost chef extraordinaire Colin Hylton in April 2021.
Frying Pan's signature jerk wings, placed on a bed of steamed vegetables, is served with a choice of two sauces.
Frying Pan's signature jerk wings, placed on a bed of steamed vegetables, is served with a choice of two sauces.
From dishwasher to owner of the top black-owned restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, Jamaican restauranteur Chef BobbyD, has achieved much success.
From dishwasher to owner of the top black-owned restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, Jamaican restauranteur Chef BobbyD, has achieved much success.
Chief Executive Officer of Coffee Bay Restaurant Jerry McDonald, has opened an eatery in Bronx, New York, that gives diners a slice of Jamaica.
Chief Executive Officer of Coffee Bay Restaurant Jerry McDonald, has opened an eatery in Bronx, New York, that gives diners a slice of Jamaica.
Leah-Mae Lee (left) and her mother Vanacia Johnson-Lee have many things in common, but their love of sweet foods has made them venture into business together.
Leah-Mae Lee (left) and her mother Vanacia Johnson-Lee have many things in common, but their love of sweet foods has made them venture into business together.
Chef Pinder sells beef, chicken, vegetables patties. He also has a gluten-free option.
Chef Pinder sells beef, chicken, vegetables patties. He also has a gluten-free option.
Meet the talent behind Jamaican and Mediterranean fusion restaurant Pimento Tapas Bar, Chef Carlington Morrissey.
Meet the talent behind Jamaican and Mediterranean fusion restaurant Pimento Tapas Bar, Chef Carlington Morrissey.
Chef Noel's seafood corn soup.
Chef Noel's seafood corn soup.
Chef Noel Cunningham achieved his dream of branching out when he created his own restaurant in Toronto, Canada.
Chef Noel Cunningham achieved his dream of branching out when he created his own restaurant in Toronto, Canada.
Who doesn't love jerked chicken? Chef Carlington Morrissey prepared some flavourful Jamaican jerked chicken served with avocado salsa.
Who doesn't love jerked chicken? Chef Carlington Morrissey prepared some flavourful Jamaican jerked chicken served with avocado salsa.
Toussaint Davy of Jamaica Cold Pressed Juices and his line of  cold-pressed cane juice made with  local flavours such as turmeric, tamarind, soursop, and beetroot.
Toussaint Davy of Jamaica Cold Pressed Juices and his line of cold-pressed cane juice made with local flavours such as turmeric, tamarind, soursop, and beetroot.

Even though the Government relaxed restrictions and allowed restaurants to reopen their dining rooms, a large percentage of persons still preferred to maintain their social distance and stick to ordering in, rather than going out. They sought other ways to get a taste of Jamaica’s flavourful food culture. Perhaps this is the reason why in our second pandemic year, readers indulged in articles that took them on epicurean adventures which kept them connected to home and outside simultaneously. Most of our most-read stories featured courageous Jamaicans who dared to launch businesses during unpredictable times for the global food industry, and fed the curiosity of food enthusiasts about what was happening in the culinary space in different parts of the world. Here are the top 21 Food stories for 2021.

1. Jamaican makes success of ‘home restaurant’ in Mexico

Moving to Mexico did not blur Theresa Barrett’s vision. As she settled in her new home, Barrett said she would often be asked, “Where are you from?” while walking the streets of Mexico City; and when she revealed she was from Jamaica, there was always interest in the island’s food. So, the teacher-turned-chef, wanting to share the culture of the land of her birth, started to invite persons into her home, where she would cook authentic Jamaican dishes. This gave birth to her ‘home restaurant’, where she offered a well-rounded culinary experience, which she named 'Laxaymaca'. Commenting on her bold move to launch into the restaurant business, Barrett said one should always trust their gut, believe in their passion, and “find people who will support those passions and dreams”.

2. Late chef extraordinaire Colin Hylton was a ‘culinary genius of his time’

The death of renowned Chef Colin Hylton rocked the food industry far and wide. It is no wonder that the story earned the number two position on the list of most-read Food stories for 2021. The celebrated chef and pastry connoisseur dedicated decades of his life to delighting taste buds both near and far, boasting several accolades and years of masterful service in the food industry. Several business executives and culinary experts recalled their fondest memories of Hylton, including tTech Limited’s Christopher Reckord, chefs Brian Lumley and Noel Cunningham, and actor-playwright Fabian Thomas, all of whom agreed that he was ‘a culinary genius of his time.’

3. Collin McKoy opens Jamaican restaurant in Thailand

Military veteran Collin McKoy set down roots in Southeast Asia with his restaurant, Frying Pan. Before he retired from the army, McKoy had set his sights on pursuing the culinary arts and building on the lessons he learnt from his mother in the kitchen. Eager to make his dreams a reality, he worked part-time at a restaurant, and now proudly carries on a tasty tradition with his Jam-Thai restaurant.

4. Jamaica Cold Pressed Juices set to change sugar cane narrative

This was an introduction to British-Jamaican Toussaint Davy and a lesson for readers who did not know that cold-pressed cane juice could be chock-full of antioxidants and immune-boosting benefits. With the use of local flavours, such as turmeric, tamarind, soursop, and beetroot, among many other seasonal favourites, he has carved out a new healthy niche for sugar cane.

5. Jamaican restaurant owner spices up Baltimore

Chef BobbyD is happy that a boy from the small district of Vineyard, Black River, in St Elizabeth, is climbing higher heights and inspiring others. His eponymous fusion restaurant, which is complemented with chefs from Jamaican, Spanish, African and American backgrounds, has a wide range of creations, including Asian dumplings on which he drizzles a bourbon jerk glaze; stewed pork with coconut rice; and Hawaiian glazed salmon, grilled, then topped with mango salsa, among other exotic dishes, all of which looked like a perfect painting in the images he contributed of several plated presentations.

6. Coffee Bay Restaurant flying Jamaica’s flag high in the Bronx

Working as a business development manager for a restaurant in New York gave Jerry McDonald the push to join the food industry. He started out by purchasing a struggling Bronx-located restaurant and transformed it into the Coffee Bay Restaurant, which opened its doors on December 1, 2020.

7. Jamaican chef tantalising taste buds in Denmark

For the past 20 years, Christopher Pinder has invested in building a life in Denmark. It led to the Jamaica-born chef opening his own restaurant with a menu that features several Jamaican delights, including patties made of beef, chicken or vegetables. He also has a gluten-free option. The creative chef uses his own patty recipe to tickle his customers' taste buds, which intrigued social media users who commented on the power of Jamaicans and our culture.

8. Mother and 12-y- o daughter bite into business

Leah-Mae Lee, 12, and her mother, Vanacia Johnson-Lee, share the same sweet-toothed characteristics which led to the creation of newly established sweet spot, Lea's Sugar-Coated Treats. Inspired by their love of crafting unique and fun treats, from artisanal flavours to one-of-a-kind desserts, the business was a way for Johnson-Lee to challenge Leah-Mae. And what a sweet challenge it has been!

9. Entrepreneur of Jamaican heritage opens Burger House in New York

Born to a Jamaican mother and Barbadian father, Jon Yearwood "grew up in East Flatbush with the best of both worlds regarding culinary offerings". Yearwood, the owner of The Burger House in New York, shared with Food that he had another business in mind when he decided to test the waters and open a restaurant during the pandemic. The eatery serves Southern and American comfort food. Yearwood said that while most Jamaicans veer towards jerked or some other popular Jamaican delights, for him, having grown up on West Indian food, he developed a different taste when travelling south.

10. Dining with Curvy – A date you will love

Valentine's Day 2021 marked the day media vixen and dancehall artiste Yanique 'Curvy Diva' Barrett opened her restaurant called Dining with Curvy. "For me, it's about love," Barrett said of her entrepreneurial venture. A lover of creating, cooking, and catering to people, she started a pop-up kitchen in 2020 and found her way into the hearts of many, which inspired her to sell some of the culinary creations from her cookbook by transitioning to the brick-and-mortar business. Whether pan-seared or herb-crusted, the salmon comes highly recommended by Barrett, who shared special memories of cooking for her late mother in this Food feature.

11. Juiceman Bobo Negus had a vision of coconut water mixed with gold

"I asked Jah to send me a sign, and I had a vision of a bottle of coconut water lying horizontally, and inside the bottle was gold," shared coconut water salesman Bobo Negus, who embraced the challenge to diversify his brand with natural juices. He claimed to be the number one juiceman in Jamaica, which certainly had our readers clicking on his story to see why.

12. Jerk hub ' Fiahs ' up innovation with authentic pan jerk drive-through

As the global pandemic forced Jamaican restaurateurs to pivot and find means to keep their grills and stoves fired up, one businessman chose to create a new dining experience. Franklyn Mason Jr discovered a window of opportunity to start a one-of-a-kind, drive-through initiative with the Jungle Fiah Jerk Hub in Spanish Town that would take customers on an appetising ride with its authentic pan jerk drive-through.

13. Jamaica-born Chef Morrissey establishes culinary roots in the Netherlands

Imagine travelling to the Netherlands and craving the taste of rice and peas and jerk chicken, but not knowing where to find it. Well, look no further, because Carlington Morrissey opened the Pimento Tapas Bar in the northwestern European country in January 2021, and our Food section was ready to share the chef's story of spreading his roots through the restaurant.

14. J'can-Canadian chef opens culinary doors in Toronto

Once again, an interview took readers on a trip out of Jamaica – this time to Toronto, where Chef Noel Cunningham achieved his dream of creating his own restaurant. Cuisine by Noel officially opened on January 5, 2021, but it was only through hard work, determination and challenges that the Jamaican-Canadian finally saw the fruits of his labour.

15. Stush in the Bush – An unforgettable 'farm-to-table' epicurean adventure

Senior Gleaner Writer Janet Silvera never misses an opportunity to take an adventure into undiscovered or newly charted waters. This time around, it was with Lisa 'Stush' and Christopher 'Bush' Binns at their renowned 'farm-to-table' epicurean escape in St Ann. The Stush in the Bush owners titillated the taste buds of journalists who travelled from as far as Austria for the Jamaica Tourist Board destination update media tour and lunch, all of which were captured in the story that took our readers on an adventure to remember.

16. Omar's Kitchen – The new hotspot for Jamaican food in NY

Just before the pandemic hit, Omar's Kitchen was opened in New York by Chef Omar Walters. Within a short space of time, his establishment earned the thumbs up from celebrities like Shenseea, Nick Cannon, Jhene Aiko, Fabolous and Junior Reid. Assistant Online and Lifestyle Editor Debra Edwards checked in with Walters to find out what was causing the new hotspot for Jamaican food in NY to be on the tip of everyone's tongue and making the rounds in their social media stories. She found food bursting with Jamaican goodness and fused with other Caribbean flavours, complemented by authentic island décor, that captivated guests.

17. Raina 's Kitchen rooted in Jamaican spices and flavour

Based in North Atlanta and set in the virtual space, Raina's Kitchen is continuing a legacy of cooking authentic Jamaican dishes. It was started by Raina Joseph, the daughter of the owners of Irie Café, and later Fern Gully Jamaican Café, in Kennesaw, Georgia. "I learned how to cook by watching my parents cook and serve others from their hearts," she told Food. She showcased authentic Jamaican dishes through her Instagram account, including oxtail and beans, hominy corn porridge, and ackee and salt fish in breadfruit tacos until her inbox became flooded with requests for longer, tutorial-like videos. She transitioned to YouTube, where she has had the privilege to connect with yardies at home and abroad.

18. RIU promotes from within

The Gleaner's Western Bureau shared the success stories of Oneil Vernon and Carlington Pryce, who both work in the hospitality industry. Vernon was the first Jamaican promoted as an executive chef with Spanish-owned RIU Hotels & Resorts while Pryce worked his way up the professional ladder, from a waiter at RIU Palace Tropical Bay to dining room supervisor, then assistant restaurant manager at Club Hotel RIU Negril, and now public relations manager at RIU Ocho Rios. Both praised the hotel chain for its 'staff-first' approach to promotions. Over 1,500 Jamaicans are employed across the six RIU hotels, including some who started with the first property 20 years ago.

19. Roland Henry sets up restaurant in Maverley

A moment of fate challenged one young dishwasher to put the skills he had acquired while working at a restaurant in Maryland to the test. It was Maverley-raised Roland Henry. He became inspired by the operations of the kitchen and eventually sought the formal training needed to become a chef at the Stratford University School of Culinary Arts in Virginia. Thirteen years on and off in school, Henry returned to Jamaica and worked as head chef at some of the island's top restaurants until he could establish his own RKK Restaurant and Catering business.

20. The Porridge Shoppe providing a hearty head start

"Truth is, some persons may not eat a particular type of porridge, and it came to me I could have somewhere that people can get their choice of porridge. Hence, the birth of The Porridge Shoppe," Sabrina Webster, manager of The Porridge Shoppe, shared with Food. She officially launched the business in October and embarked on an unexpected venture – being that her first memory of having porridge was not the most pleasant – in finding ways to leave the traditional Jamaican breakfast item stamped in the minds and taste buds of customers.

21. ' Hawt Chef' Adrian Morris sizzles with Jamaican dishes in Canada

When Adrian Morris, otherwise called 'Hawt Chef', shifted his aspirations from visual art to culinary arts, he found his true purpose. Being able to express his love for art through cooking and fusing a passion for presentation, he caught the eyes of many who tuned into the popular chef's YouTube channel that he started in 2014, based on his wife's suggestion. Morris' video demonstrating his spicy Jamaican Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe garnered over one million views when he launched the channel, and he has plans to make it an even bigger international platform.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com