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Nicholas Owen is spicing up kitchens

Published:Thursday | October 8, 2020 | 12:07 AMKrysta Anderson /Gleaner Writer
Nicholas Owen
Nicholas Owen
Nicholas Owen
Nicholas Owen
Nick’s seasonings 1
Nick’s seasonings 1

Roman playwright Plautus once declared, “Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate.” Looking to spice up the freshly prepared meals in your kitchen is Nick’s Seasoning.

Nicholas Owen, owner and creator of Nick’s Season, shares more about his spiced adventure. “I’m no chef. I just know what I know, and I know Jamaican food well,” he told Food. Owen comes from a strong line of self-taught chefs, naming his mother and aunt as amazing cooks. His Aunt Merlene, however, taught him how to experiment in the kitchen and shared the secret family recipe of the best jerk seasoning blend. It took the young entrepreneur the natural skills and tenacity for keeping tradition alive to make the seasoning a brand to be reckoned with. “A lot of people put their spin on it, but I have perfected it,” he confidently added.

Crediting his passions for the palate to his Jamaican upbringing, this history afforded him the opportunity to have the very best flavours at his fingertips. He took some of these flavours with him to college, throwing jerk chicken and beer parties while attending Howard University. He shared about his culinary sojourn in college, “At Howard, everyone used to rave about the food I cooked at the parties I hosted. I kind of shelved the idea to venture into the food business and focused on my studies and career.”

But the eye-opening and exciting experience played its part in not only sparking a genuine interest in the culinary field, it also inspired his love for sharing good food with others. The thought of bottling his seasonings didn’t click until years later, post-university. “I’m not able to cook for everyone but a far better reach would be to put that same experience in a jar and make it as simple as possible for people to cook,” he revealed.

The die-hearted foodie with the proper know-how and certifications created not just one, but four signature seasonings within his product line: jerk seasoning (mild), jerk marinade (hot), curry powder (mild) and adobo seasoning with pimento. The reception so far, he says, has been incredible.

“You are only as good as your network, and the support I gained from family, friends, collegemates and total strangers have been nothing short of amazing. I am very grateful and it only motivates me to push further,” he asserted.

So how does his product stand out from others in the market? Well, according to Owen, he incorporates more natural ingredients than that of his competitors to give the seasoning an authentic jerk taste. His products are not mass-produced and are of the highest quality. The aroma is just as important as the taste. “A woman opened my jar of jerk seasoning once and instantly said it smelled romantic. Yes, jerk seasoning is supposed to be hot, but I want people to smell the aroma; the cinnamon, the freshly ground pimento berries, raw cane sugar and thyme,” he said.

Additionally, you get more value for money since the seasoning is available in a 12-ounce jar rather than the standard 10 ounces. Ingredients for the seasoning, like the Scotch bonnet pepper, is sourced directly from Jamaica. “That’s important to me because I want to do my little part in supporting the Jamaican economy,” he added. And his business is 100 per cent black-owned.

Despite the economic strain COVID-19 has presented for businesses, Owen has been seeing an unexpected boost in sales. Reasons may vary from more people being at home and cooking to more persons supporting black-owned businesses. He is grateful for the two. Already in the process of releasing more products like the jerk bbq sauces, pine and ginger juice, sorrel and ginger juice, as well as his cookbook, he hopes to get the seasonings on supermarket shelves all across the United States. “I see the digital shift and I currently sell my products online. Selling on Amazon is a priority and I am in the process of developing augmented reality cookbook with my sister, who studied integrated digital media at New York University.”

If you thought his giving back to the land of wood and water was limited to peppers, think again. Owen has started an outreach initiative called Nick’s Seasoning Back to School treat. Inspired by his Aunt Pauline who returns to Jamaica for Christmas and gives away toys and school supplies, he was honoured to receive this baton and run with it. “There’s an old saying: ‘In order to know where you are going, you must remember where you are coming from.’ For me, this means giving back whenever I can. For the past three years, I have been hosting back-to- school drives in my grandfather’s hometown in St Richard’s Hall in Sligoville.” He is planning to expand this programme to his mother’s side of the country, Kingston and Mandeville.