Pan 2018 regional winner, Mario Bailey, speakes through culinary talent
For many contestants, PAN, hosted by CB Foods, is a way to explore their passion and love for preparing jerked chicken. For others, it is a livelihood - a way of life, feeding patrons at all hours of the day and transforming mundane stretches of road into small gatherings, punctuated by savoury aromas and mouth-watering flavours.
While we enjoy the undoubtedly delectable results, behind the PAN, it is gruelling work. It requires hours of preparation, marinating chicken for flavour to the bone, trial and error with different methods of cooking, and creating secret sauces to give the end result that extra culinary kick. Then there are the hours spent beneath the sun and battling the other elements as they come. To stand for hours on end facing the scorching heat from the PAN grill is no easy feat, neither is holding out hopes for customers when business is slow. But, the PAN men and women persevere despite the difficulties to earn a living.
The same is true for Mario Bailey, the first place winner of the PAN 2018 Regional 1 competition, held in Folly Oval, Portland. When asked what makes his chicken the best, the shy 37 year-old proudly told us, "My chicken is the best because of my sauce."
His enthusiasm is palpable, his stammer is markedly noticeable, and his chicken - obviously fantastic.
Hailing from Trelawny, a tourism epicentre with resorts dotting the coastline, Bailey lives in distinct contrast within the interior of the parish. There, life bubbles on as daily activities busies its residents.
Donald Williams, Bailey's trusty assistant, explains that he has had a bit of a rough time, but he is there to help ensure Bailey gets a fair hand at life, despite his challenges.
Having passed when he was just a boy, Williams shares that Bailey's mother charged him to look after her son: "When she was alive, she always tell me to make sure I take care of him."
Williams has held true to the promise because as far as Bailey can remember, Williams has always been around.
ESCAPE THROUGH COOKING
It is Williams who taught Bailey how to jerk chicken and inspired him to enter the PAN competition, for the second time: "I collect one of the forms for the competition and Williams help me fill it out," Bailey shares. In cooking, Bailey finds his escape and truly shines, letting his talent speak for him.
"It's just him alone. Him do mason work from time to time with his father, but is me him always around so I can show him things. Him live by himself so him have to find a way make a living," Williams explains.
"Him pick up the jerking good and him make the sauce from home and practice it. Every time I call him and ask what him doing, him working on the sauce," he continued.
Thus began their PAN journey, with Bailey leading the charge with Williams's support. "I always have to make sure that him alright, and that nobody don't take him light. Any little thing, him come to me and I help him as best as I can," Williams shares.
"I really like the competition and jerking chicken, that's why I enter most of all," Bailey stated. "I had a very good time at the competition."
When pressed about the sauce that makes his PAN chicken stand out from the rest, Bailey would only share that a little ketchup and a little sugar are among the secret ingredients.
A proud Williams has bigger plans in store for Bailey; "I just want him to get little more practice and after the competition, I want to send him on the road to do the chicken by himself. I want him to able earn a living for himself."
With the winnings from PAN 2018 Regional 1, Bailey plans to ensure he is able to cover transportation costs to make the finals scheduled for Sunday, October 28, at the National Stadium carpark in Kingston. Should he emerge the ultimate winner of PAN 2018, Bailey plans to use the prize money to continue jerking chicken, to earn a living while enjoying his favourite pieces of chicken, leg and thigh.