How to make jerk that even your Jamaican neighbors will love

The World
Glady's in Brooklyn.

All of a sudden I had an epiphany, I had to have a Caribbean restaurant.

There was certainly some concerns from people I had talked to. They would say "well, you will be a white guy cooking Caribbean food in a Caribbean neighborhood."

I thought if that is what's in the back of peoples' minds, then really the most important thing for me was the make the food, really, really good. And really authentic, and really true to form.

So I moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn four years ago. My first experience with Caribbean food was the West Indian American Day parade. I tried all different kinds of jerk and walked up and down the Eastern Parkway.

When the Spanish settled in Jamaica, they brought with them African slaves. The African slaves fled the Spanish and headed into the mountains.

They brought with them this cooking technique from Africa. It came from this word 'charqui' which now means jerky - so it's smoking and salting meat.

They dug pits and built fires to cook and they covered the fires with wood and smoked directly on top of it.

That was so clouds of smoke wouldn't pop up into the tree line and give away their position.

As time went on it became more common to do it in a barrel.

We traveled down to Jamaica, flew into Scotchies, Montego Bay and where the cooking was much spicier and much more simple. Scotchies is doing this traditional method of jerking.

We traveled through the countryside and ended up at this place called Faith's Pen which is like this road stop that has about 30 jerk stands.

They're not doing that bold-style cooking, their doing it in pans. So we decided we needed the cooking techniques of Scotchies, but the flavor profiles of Faith's Pen.

That was our inspiration.

Jamaica is such a rich culinary culture. Every market had bundles of scallions, thyme and pimentos. There were just bundles of Scotch bonnet peppers. They have bok choy. They have ginger - really gorgeous ginger.

They were all ingredients where we were like, 'we can replicate this, we can do this, and we can do it honestly.'

We were going around offering our recipe testing to our neighbors. And, you know, it started with 'What are you doing?' to 'Yeah, this is good, you got it.'

At that point we knew we were ready to open.

The only people who are going to keep you in business is your neighborhood. Our main goal was for people from the islands to come here and say 'Wow, this really does taste like home.'

Narration by Michael Jacober.

Will you support The World?

There is no paywall on the story you just read because a community of dedicated listeners and readers have contributed to keep the global news you rely on free and accessible for all. Will you join the 314 donors who’ve stepped up to support The World? From now until Dec. 31, your gift will help us unlock a $67,000 match. Donate today to double your impact and keep The World free and accessible.