Regional 1 PAN champions - More contestants head to finals
Regional 1 of PAN 2017 held at Independence Park in Black River, St Elizabeth, recently, saw contestants battling it out for a chance to compete in PAN 2017 finals in Half-Way Tree on October 29 for the ultimate prize. Until the next regional on September 30, each week the Food section introduces you to the extraordinary Jamaicans who have already secured a spot in the grand finals.
Former taxi operator cruises to victory
Emerging victorious at Regional 1 of PAN 2017, Orville Samuels secured a spot at the grand finals as he finished in second place for the parish of St Elizabeth.
At the heart of his journey to Pan 2017 is perseverance and the love for his family to do better.
From the district of Lovely Point, Samuels has an undeniable passion for food. "I have been jerking chicken for close to seven years, and so far it has been a good experience for me. This is what sends my six-year-old son to school," shared the 46-year-old. And with the help of the prize money and training that he will receive at the upcoming workshop for finalists, it's safe to say that Samuels is on course to fulfil his dreams of expanding the small cookshop that he currently operates.
Samuels entered PAN 2017 based on encouragement he got from one of his friends, Orrel Abrahams, who participated in the competition last year.
"My friend told me to enter. It was at the last minute that I decided to do it, and I must tell you, the experience was good," Samuels shared.
A former taxi operator, Samuels said his passion for food was what influenced him to get out of the taxi business.
"I used to run taxi for 17 years on the Balaclava to Santa Cruz route. I used to jerk chicken at nine nights, round robins and at parties. So, I decided to get into it full-time."
Samuels attributes his advancement to the finals to his love and passion for his craft. "I feel good when people taste my chicken and tell me that it tastes good. I made sure that on the day of the competition my sauce and chicken was right," Samuels shared proudly.
More determined to win than ever, Samuels is already in preparation mode for the grand finals. "I am preparing for the finals. The seasoning that I use will be my main priority. I will also focus on the sauce because I want people to be talking about the chicken and the sauce even after the competition is over," said Samuels.
"My son saw the certificate of participation that I got on Saturday and he asked me what it was and when I told him, he smiled. That made me even more determined to give it my best shot at the grand finals."
Manchester Pan Champ wants her own Restaurant
Like most pan chicken vendors, 27-year-old Nicola Brown plies her trade on the streets. However, her biggest dream is to have her own restaurant.
Brown, who is from Mike Town in Manchester, jerks chicken on Manchester Road in Mandeville six days a week.
"Me and a friend prepare jerked chicken every day except Sundays. The business is good, but it could be better. If I had the resources I would open my own business so that I can secure my future," Brown shared.
Having heard about the PAN 2017 competition, Brown decided to give it a try. "I always heard about the competition, but I didn't think of entering. People were always telling me that my chicken taste good so I should enter. I know I have the ability to do well so I decided to try it,' said Brown.
Brown emerged as first-place winner for the parish of Manchester.
"I wanted to prove something to persons who underestimate us and believe that women are not as good as the men who jerk chicken," she said.
She continued, "Entering the competition, I learnt to do things differently. It has been very helpful, and to be honest, the experience was a good one. The chicken sales at the event were so great that I even ran out of chicken."
Now that she has advanced to the grand finals of PAN 2017, Brown says she is paying special attention to her sauce, which she believes will help her in scoring big on the judges' scoresheets.
Westmoreland winner wants to further daughter's education
Vincent Turner is serious about his daughter's education. He is hoping to emerge victorious in the grand finals of PAN 2017 and use his winnings to further her education.
"She just graduated from Frome Technical High School, and she wants to go to college to study food and nutrition. I would use the prize money to help her get to the next level," Turner confided.
Turner was the first-place winner for the parish of Westmoreland at the recently held PAN 2017 Regional 1 eliminations.
"My four daughters were standing near the stage and when they heard that I won, all of them began to cry. They were very happy for me," Turner shared.
The 46-year-old almost didn't participate in PAN 2017. "My aunt asked me if I was interested in entering, but I didn't know how to enter. One day she told me to meet her in Savanna-la-Mar so that she could give me the form to fill out. I was contemplating not going, and at the last minute I said, why not'," shared Turner.
He continued, "The experience was wonderful for me. Winning had made me very proud. You know, a few days after I won, I was on the road and some men came up to me to congratulate me."
Vincent's brother, George Turner, had participated in PAN 2012 and represented the parish of Westmoreland.
"I jerk chicken weekly, and that's what sends my daughters to school. For five months, each year I work in a restaurant at a hotel in Utah in the United States. I have been going up on a work programme each year for the past three years, so that also helps quite a bit," said Turner.
Since he has won at regional, Turner says his jerk chicken business in Watermount district has experienced a surge in sales.
"Business has been very good since I won. Customers have been spreading the word to their friends and people are now buying more jerked chicken. One man even came and bought eight quarters, another bought 13. Winning has really positively impacted my business."