Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chef Nigel Spence Cooks Up a Taste Of Jamaica in New York

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.”
The class was inquisitive about Chef Spence’s “showdown” on Throwdown, and he said, “The day we had the Throwdown taping, I admit I was nervous—I had to hide in the kitchen for a minute, catch my breath and have a glass of rum!”
Chef Spence cooked Jamaican Jerk Snapper with Chadon-Beni Sauce, Quick Jamaican Rice & Beans, Jamaican Codfish Fritters and Island Rum Pudding all in a matter of 90 minutes and the class received generous samples of each item! Chef Spence clarified that Chadon-Beni is actually cilantro and that in Jamaica, they called the Rice And Beans dish—made with kidney beans—Rice And Peas.
No doubt the scents of Chef S’s fabulous creations were wafting through the entire Whole Foods store making the shoppers jealous. For those trying to diet, we have to say that the fragrant Chadon-Beni sauce—which contains next to no calories—was something we were planning to use in the future on all sorts of salads and meats. The chef gave us a small cup of it on the side of our Red Snapper. (It contains six simple ingredients put into a food processor for just under a minute—1 cup of cilantro, 1 cup of flat parsley, 1 cup of lime juice, ½ fresh scotch bonnet pepper, 6 whole peel garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of salt. Chef Spence uses Kosher salt.)
As we left the class and Chef Spence ran out “in the hopes that my car is still outside”—the Visit Jamaica people were nice enough to hand us bags of Jamaica goodies including the nutmeg, allspice and brand of Jamaican blue Mountain coffee Chef Spence serves at Ripe.
For more info on Ripe Kitchen and Bar, go to riperestaurant.com. For more info on Jamaican tourism, go to visitjamaica.com.


sue said...

Mmmm looks delicious...why wasn't I invited? :)

Sonia said...

Jamaican chefs for me is one of the greatest chefs in the world. I have already taste the foods that is being prepared by a Jamaican chef in one of the Montego Bay hotels which I stay for my vacation.

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