Pan champions - The people behind the stories
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.
Andre Wright succeeds the second time around
Despite not securing a place among the winners in PAN 2016, Andre Wright decided to try his luck again in 2017. At the recent regional, Wright placed second.
"I always admired CB for this competition and for what they are doing for pan chicken vendors across Jamaica. It's a very good thing that they are doing and that's why I decided to enter again," disclosed Wright.
Wright has been preparing pan chicken for the past five years, mostly on weekends in Waterworks, Westmoreland.
"I have a small business that I want to upgrade and improve. The competition has sharpened my personal skills in food preparation, and that's what I'm taking with me to the grand finals - my enhanced skills."
Wright shared what made his chicken special in securing victory the second time around. "The seasoning helped and I always make my chicken tender and succulent. I have a passion for it, so all the passion is thrust into what I do. I love cooking and this is something that I learnt from a friend."
Latisha Swaby is Bellefield's pride and Joy
The community of Bellefield in Davyton, Manchester, has been in a jubilant mood since one of their own - Latisha Swaby - emerged triumphant at Regional 1 of PAN 2017 in St Elizabeth.
Swaby not only finished in second place for the parish of Manchester, but she also won the Miracle Tomato Ketchup Tallawah Sauce competition.
"Everyone from the community has been rejoicing since I won. They are proud of me and the attention that it has brought to the community. When they saw me on the television and in the newspapers, it gave everyone a good feeling," Swaby shared.
Swaby is a former student of Porus High School, who later attended the Knox Community College and HEART Trust/NTA, where she studied food and housekeeping.
"My interest in food started when I was in high school, and I really want to become a well-known chef and to have a chain of restaurants," Swaby shared.
The 21-year-old said she entered PAN 2017 after hearing how the competition has helped many pan chicken vendors.
"I always heard about it and seen how persons who have won have gone on to become successful, so I said why not give it a try?"
She attributed her winning the Miracle Tomato Ketchup Tallawah Sauce competition to a secret recipe.
"I have the talent and I practised a lot with the ketchup. My parents are also chefs so I learnt from them. It's a secret recipe," she said jokingly.
She added, "I am happy I came second for my parish, and I'm just focusing on taking the top prize at the grand finals in October. I want to impress the judges and hopefully it will work out."
The puzzle pieces of pan chicken
Oneisha Brown's common-law husband, Oliver Madourie, was the parish winner for St James in Regional 1 of PAN 2016. A year later, Oneisha Brown joined him when she won at PAN 2017 Regional 1 in St Elizabeth.
"It was a great experience which I wouldn't mind having every day," Brown joked.
The mother of six, Brown has been a pan chicken vendor on Glouchester Avenue in St James for the past three and a half years.
"I jerk chicken near to Margaritaville in Montego Bay. If you come to my stall you will see the trophy that I got in the competition. Just by displaying it, people come to buy from me, so winning has helped my business," Brown shared.
What makes her chicken special? "I used a lot of herbs and spices from Walkerswood. You see, when you are preparing chicken, it's like a puzzle and you have to join the pieces to make it right."
Brown said her preparation for next month's grand finals include focusing more on her sauce.
"I'm putting a lot of effort into my jerk sauce. I'm going to add a lot more spice to it," she revealed.
Winning at the grand finals is her focus as she would like to use the prize money to help her to move from the side of the road to her very own restaurant, and to invest in her children's education.
"Right now I am on the roadside and I want to start my own business. I also plan to improve my life and to invest in my children's education," states Brown who is from the Glendevon area of St James.
Quality time and special seasoning-the recipe to Wendell Gayle's success.
Wendell Gayle, first-place winner for Hanover, says spending quality time in preparing the chicken and special seasoning were what contributed to this victory.
The 45-year-old father of three from Jericho in the hills of Hanover, has been preparing pan chicken from a small cook shop for the past 10 years.
"You have to put in quality time in how you prepare the chicken, add your special seasoning and the presentation. That's what makes my chicken special," Gayle shared.
He entered PAN 2017, after he was coerced by friends. "Two of my friends who entered years ago, encouraged me to enter. I am glad I did because the experience was good. Just seeing people enjoy the chicken that I prepared is satisfaction for me."
He shared the joy he felt when he was announced as the winner for his parish. "You see like how Andrew Holness did look the night he was announced winner in the elections last year, that's the same way I felt. Overjoyed and happy."
A father of three, Gayle has a day job in the hospitality sector, but does his chicken on the weekends as an extra source of income for his family.
He has big plans for utilising the cash prize if he is announced the winner at the grand finals. "My dream is to open my own restaurant, but if I won, I would use some of the money to help out the Jericho Primary School. They need a lot of things including educational stuff, so that would be my priority and then I would use some to invest in a restaurant."
Since his parish win, Gayle says his has seen an upswing in his pan chicken business. "People in the community recognise me from the competition and I have been getting jobs to jerk chicken at parties. It (PAN 2017) has really opened a lot of doors for me." said Gayle.