Cooking Creatively With Pa Ben Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Spicing it up the Pa Ben Way
So you're probably thinking the wise narrator Pa Ben from Old Story Time has made his comeback. Well, not exactly.
This Pa Ben is merely a pseudonym for the culinary greatness of Jamaican seasoning connoisseur Carlton Masters.
Finding his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with jerk sauce as his secret ingredient, makes Masters a local lucky charm. Unearthing this gold, however, was no easy feat. It was sheer passion which kept his hope alive, preserving a good old-fashioned family and Jamaican tradition of jerk.
Born and raised in Mandeville, he was exposed to cooking at an early age and was always fascinated by it.
"I've always loved food. My father taught me how to cook. He believed this was a skill I needed to have so that my wife couldn't trick me by giving me the same thing every night to eat," Masters told Food.
His introduction to jerk, however, was courtesy of
his mother, whose roots could be traced to the jerk capital of Jamaica - Portland.
"My mother is from Priestman's River, close to Boston in Portland, and they love to jerk. My uncle introduced it to us, and I have been hooked ever since, but I decided I wanted to do it better. And from there, my plan to create an authentic Jamaican jerk seasoning started," he said.
That process came with many trials and errors, but Masters never gave up. One day when his wife was with child, he got up in the middle of the night and began making notes. The next day, he made his first batch of seasoning from the jottings to see if it could work - and it did. Since then, Masters has been working on improving his recipe.
Five years later, his business has gone through all the proper channels of getting standardised by the Scientific Research Council and the label approved by Bureau of Standards Jamaica.
"This product is very dear to me. I think we were losing the authentic flavour in our products here in Jamaica, so I ensured that my product supplied that missing link and could compete with any top brand when it came to taste and consistency."
It is important to note that Pa Ben Jerk Seasoning has no MSG or black pepper, and 90 per cent of the ingredients are Jamaican, including natural herbs and spices.
Balancing family and work life has been difficult because Masters has a nine to five outside of producing his jerk seasoning. But he does it all with a smile because he loves what he does. He feels family is key to a happy life, and is grateful for the solid support system they have provided for him. While his wife says he is a workaholic, he prides himself on always making time for her and their two children.
Masters tells Food that the name Pa Ben came about out of a pet name his father gave him.
"At a family get-together, we were all throwing out names. My wife suggested that we call the seasoning Pa Ben since that was what my father used to call me. The rest, as they say, is history."
This jerk seasoning is not just for jerk. It can be used on just about any meat, and in almost any dish.
To experience the seasoning for ourselves, Masters invited us to his residence to indulge in a feast - freshly prepared with his sauce. The rich burst of flavours felt right at home with the taste buds and will definitely leave you salivating for more.
For now, the seasoning is being carried by Fontana Pharmacy in Montego Bay and Mandeville.
With hopes of expanding, he had this to say for anyone seeking to follow their dreams, "Don't give up Ö . Keep trying. It may seem like it won't work out, but just keep pushing. Most big businesses started out small, so keep that in mind."
He has debuted his culinary skills at the Men Who Cook show in Mandeville last year, and is looking forward to participating again next month.