This week's Food Month personality is celebrated master chef Colin Brown
Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Coordinator
From the rural community of Ulster Spring in Trelawny to the Cayman Islands and England, master chef Colin Brown has circled the globe. He's now back home, but his journey is far from over.
The owner of popular restaurants Chef Colin Brown in England and the newly opened UFO in Batislava, Slovakia, Brown plans to use his return home to give back to the country he loves by imparting the knowledge he has gained over the years to young chefs.
In a candid interview at Strawberry Hill, the master chef told of his long and tedious journey that started from he was eight years old. Under the tutelage of his grandmother, he moved from cooking for eight persons to now feeding thousands after he arrived in England in 1997 with only £40.
Since then, he has earned two Caribbean Chef of the Year awards, his restaurant in England is the only Caribbean restaurant with AA Rosette rating, and this year he was awarded by the United Nations for what he's doing with Jamaican food.
With an innate desire to give back, Brown has teamed up with another man who knows how to get things done - Chris Blackwell. Brown, who designed this year's Restaurant Week menu for Strawberry Hill, and will be in the kitchen for the week, will be working with chefs in all three island outpost properties, the other two being The Caves in Negril, and GoldenEye in St Mary. "The idea is to set up some training facility here. It would be nice if I get chefs from here in there (my restaurants abroad). It will be like finishing school for chefs. I have to give back."
He notes that everyday things that we take for granted can become the cornerstone of any dish. "In Jamaica, we are sitting on this big, fat, juicy market and no one wants to farm," he said.
He added that in Britain everything is valued. "In England, Caribbean food is worth £1.49 billion and Jamaica accounts for 75 per cent of that."
He notes that in Europe when it comes to food, it's all about presentation. "That's what we (Jamaica) don't get right. There is a difference between having some food and dining. You have to pay attention to details, that's what you get the awards for. The table has to be immaculate. That's the way things need to be. You have to master your craft and it's about presentation."
In passing on this knowledge, he hopes that soon his won't be the only Caribbean restaurant with a world-class rating.
Brown's new restaurant UFO is Slovakia came about as a tactical move. "England is a sandwich culture, Slovakia is perfectly situated in Europe, 40 kilometres from Austria and 60 from Hungary. My aim is to introduce them (Europe) to Jamaican products. They love the madness, they drink (in these countries) a lot of alcohol and that goes great with jerk. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are big sausage countries and we can use that love. How do we introduce them to Jamaican food? You get their attention and how do you do that? You get a striking building. The UFO is an iconic building."
He noted that it's time Jamaican manufacturers get their products out of the 'world isle' in supermarkets. But he advises that the way to do that is to pay attention to the packaging.
"We are not being business savvy enough for the modern world. We need to pay more attention to packaging. We need to get the look right."
He said the potential of Jamaican food is tremendous and wants it to take its rightful place among the major cuisines of the world - French and Italian. "We are more powerful than we think we are."
Though he will not be in his restaurant for this its first time as part of the Gleaner-sponsored Restaurant Week, Brown has nothing to worry about. "I have a very good team who know the set-up. We have been together for five years."
Brown said Restaurant Week is a great concept.
"When I was leaving in 1997, nobody was going to restaurants and dining out."
Now he wants our chefs to get the training they deserve and appreciate the potential of their profession. "They don't know the value of being a chef. You're like a rock star. The demand is big and we need to understand that it lies in training. What you get with on-the-job training you could never learn in any school. So I want to take these guys, do the training and let them out into the world."
He hopes to, by next year, have a Jamaican restaurant in Hollywood staffed with chefs from Jamaica to keep it authentic.
"I want to give back and it doesn't mean giving back to an organisation. The training facility that I am going to put in place, that's my legacy. It's not about the money, I can't give everybody a 'ting', but I can help somebody to change their family."