Chefs reignite culinary magic at JFD Festival’s Picante
With the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival nine years strong, this year’s Picante was a playground for the local renaissance of fine-dining.
On the second night of the four-day event, Picante showcased over a dozen chefs and their best offerings in the local market. With Korean, Trinidadian, Asian, Mediterranean and Caribbean cuisine on display, JA Food and Drink director Nicole Pandohie says when they started nearly a decade ago, this is what they hoped to accomplish.
Catching up with Food, between bites, Pandohie shared, “Absolutely. This is our ninth year and it has been phenomenal. It has grown every single year, so yeah, we expected it to be fantastic. I’m excited and amazed because this is what we always dreamed of. We dream of taking this and transposing it in other countries like truly taking brand Jamaica that already sits on a world stage to other countries.”
While known for offering an array food, Pandohie said a focus on chefs has always been the core value of the organisation.“So, when we started this and when we started the Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen, it was about a platform to showcase the industry, especially our chefs’ fraternity. So, here we have 16 chefs, two international chefs. One is Chef Simpson at Walkerswood, who is yaadie-born and bred in Jamaica, but has taken brand Jamaica to the world. And then we have Phuc Yea, who is a chef from Downtown Miami, he is Michelin-awarded and fantastic. He was happy to come and that’s the thing, we have so many international talents that are happy to come to Jamaica for something like this.”
Clearly one of the stars of the night, Chef Caesar Zapata’s five-spice pork with red onions, tomatoes, fresh herbs, Scotch bonnet and nuoc Cham gave his booth a revolving door of food lovers all evening.
Another crowd favourite for the night was the Flaming Wok’s Chef Junior Lowe. Though he had never tried Korean cuisine before, Michael McNee from downtown says he is now a convert.
“It’s appealing to the eye. Some of the meals them, it nuh appealing so before you even try it, it...” he trailed off, mimicking a displeased look. Gesturing to the Spicy Korean Fried Chicken with stir fried noodles and sesame garlic string beans with carrots in his hands, “This fit the look.”
While this was his first time at a food festival, he says he will be adding it to the roster of things he looks out for yearly.
“This is an experience. Yeah, you just a go round and a eat and a drink and a eat and a drink. This nice, is not your everyday out and partying.”
While food was the main motive for the evening, fire dancers and a playlist of modern classics kept the vibe just immaculate well into the night.
Although the primary focus of the evening was food, the addition of fire dancers and a playlist of modern classics kept the vibe just right, maintaining an immaculate atmosphere throughout the night.