Jamaican Cuisine with Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones spends all day in her kitchen. She is the host of VIBES Cuisine, a Jamaican TV-show that began as a five-minute segment in 2006 and has grown to a 30-minute prime time food program. Whether she’s demonstrating delicious recipes or introducing a new chef, Michelle never hides her passion for Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine.
Traterra: Tell us why you started sharing the story of Jamaican cuisine.
Michelle: Seven years ago, although food had exploded as an entertainment genre abroad, there was nothing being done locally despite Jamaica’s vibrant food culture. Having grown up at the apron strings of two Jamaican grandmothers and my mom who were and are fantastic cooks, I had already organically developed my kitchen skills and it was wonderful to go out, meet other chefs and showcase their creations and backgrounds. My passions are cooking, entertaining and chatting – a combination which really lends itself to hosting a food programme, as well as writing about local gastronomy.
What foods and flavors can we expect to see a lot of in Jamaica?
Of course our beloved ‘jerk’ is prevalent everywhere in Jamaica – uniquely spiced by one of the hottest chilies in the world—the Scotch Bonnet Pepper. Visit this July for the Portland Jerk Festival — the Caribbean’s largest food festival and try everything jerked from lobster to duck to rabbit, and even ice cream. We also love to take traditional foods and add our twists to it remaking it into a new local dish. For instance, ackee and saltfish is our national dish but we now take it a step further – on menus around the island, ackee and saltfish pizza, spring rolls and pasta are now very popular.
How has Jamaica and the food scene changed since the beginning of Vibes?
Food in Jamaica has definitely been elevated in the 7 years Vibes Cuisine has been on the scene. There’s been a huge increase in boutique farms of organic greens, herbs and vegetables in recent years. Jamaicans have always adopted a ‘farm to table’ approach; we are still basically an agrarian society. Almost everyone has roots in a family farm or even a kitchen garden at home or fruit trees in the yard.
What is your favorite place to eat in Jamaica?
Although I love to eat at restaurants, our street food is delicious. I love to have a jerk or barbi-fried pan chicken with tons of pepper sauce on the side of the road. I like going to Hellshire Beach for fried escoveitch or steamed fish and lobster. When on the North Coast, I’ll get Jamaican Nouveau cuisine at Round Hill. On the way to Negril passing through Mandeville, I must stop at ‘no.7’ at the Yam park and have roast yam and a small piece of roast saltfish for the road. There are so many places to choose from, I can’t pick just one!