By Anne M. Raso
Who needs a “spliff” when you’ve got Jamaican cuisine worth jonesing for? I was fortunate enough to be invited to Chef Nigel Spence’s recent cooking class sponsored by visitjamaica.com at Whole Foods’ Bowery location. The class - entitled “Jerk & Rum: A Taste Of Jamaica” - was limited to only 25 folks on a special demo room on the second floor of Whole Foods. The affable Chef Spence kept reminding us that any cooking shortcuts he gave us need not be announced to any Jamaican friends you might be cooking for! He said at least six times, “Any dish that takes less than three hours Jamaicans won’t eat!”
We were handed information about Jamaican culinary traditions, as well as recipe printouts that coincided with the dishes the noted chef was concocting only 12 feet away or less (depending on where your seat was). Chef Spence did not hand out any literature for his Mt. Vernon, NY eaterie, Ripe Kitchen and Bar, but he did tell us about his great triumph on Throwdown With Bobby Flay at his eateries’ courtyard and why his jerk seasoning beat out Mr. Flay’s. “I have never revealed the secret before in public—but I add orange juice or lie juice to my seasoning. It makes it stay for only a week whereas standard dry seasoning lasts much longer, but that’s the secret!” He continues, “I also use wild cinnamon but it is not the kind you think of here in the U.S.—it is only available in the Portland area of Jamaica and it is actually tree bark shavings.”
riperestaurant.com. For more info on Jamaican tourism, go to visitjamaica.com.