Cabbrina Lennox, Gleaner Writer
PORT MARIA, St Mary:IN THESE harsh economic times, it is very important that Jamaicans find inexpensive ways to feed and sustain their families. To this end, Owen Malcolm has tapped into a niche market that caters to people on the lower socio-economic ladder.
He has used his experience as a chef to create a business for himself that seeks to put a spin on an inexpensive protein that is a favourite of many Jamaicans: chicken back.
"I do jerked chicken back, neck, chicken; salt fish choker, Indian dishes like pumpkin catary, and jackfruit catary, but right now, mi a do brown-stewed chicken back and curried chicken back with roti," said Malcolm.
He said he worked at a catering parlour in Oracabessa, but after a couple of years, he decided it was time to move on. Moving on was not easy, however, and it wasn't long before he was called back to continue his passion for cooking.
"From there, I leave go do security work, but security work don't bring no pension, and mi did want do something for myself, and because mi did have the experience in that already, mi just branch off and built myself a cart so I could go 'round and sell," he told The Gleaner.
Now working as a part-time chef at the Port Maria Fire Station, Malcolm rolls out his cart, decorated in Jamaican colours, in the evenings to his favourite spots where he prepares some of his favourite recipes, which always include chicken back.
"Business is up and down - sometimes good sometimes bad. The best time come on holidays and dead yards, or dance, but I can't really complain," Malcolm told The Gleaner.
He said growing up without his parents made life difficult for him, but he refused to allow that to stop him.
TOUGH GROWING UP
"I was a sibling of two, parents unknown. I grew up in a foster home, and I would say that was where the Indian cooking came from. The Pauls, who adopted us, were Indians.
"My childhood days did tough, but you can't really complain because bygone a bygone. Future mi a look pon," he said.
Malcolm told The Gleaner that he lived with his foster parents until he was eight years old. He was later sent to be in the care of the State because of some challenges.
"They decided to keep my sister. I don't know if it was because she was a girl, but I was sent to approve school, not because of bad behaviour, but lack of parental guidance. So I was at Homestead one time and then to Swift Turcell Boy's Home," he explains.
Malcolm said his experience at the boys' home was rough, but it taught him discipline.
"They insisted on discipline, like doing your chores, washing, cooking, cleaning. We learned dem principle deh - what you have, you work wid it 'til you can achieve more," he said.
Now that he has three children of his own, Malcolm said he wants to improve his life so he can give them a better life.