Chef Okley Dennis cops Baptist Church jerk chicken contest
The culinary skills of Hanover resident Okley Dennis soared to the fore on Labour Day in neighbouring Westmoreland when he was adjudged the winner of the annual St. Leonard Baptist Church Best Jerk Chicken Contest.
Dennis, a member of the Church of God of Prophecy, in Hanover, won the jerk contest and walked away with the $20,000 winner’s purse. On his way to winning the contest, he got the better of four other competitors, who were not favoured by the judges after sampling what they had to offer.
The fund-raising event, which served as part of the church’s outreach, evangelism, and missionary effort, was spearheaded by the church’s men’s fellowship department, which was well supported by the women’s federation and members of the community.
The contest was judged on the quality of the sauce used in the preparation of the jerked chicken, the appearance of the finished product, and the flavour. Dennis won in all the categories, which set him apart from Nelson Steven and Nesta Clarke, who were second and third, taking home $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. Lorna Kerr, the lone female competitor, won a special prize of a day pass courtesy of Iberostar Hotel.
“Last year, the idea came from the men’s fellowship, but what we did this year was to join with the women’s federation to give greater support to the cause of their mission and evangelism project,” said Reverend Vanesa Burnett-Logan, the pastor of the St Leonard Baptist Circuit of Churches in Westmoreland.
Dennis was overjoyed at winning the contest, especially because it was staged as a fund-raising event by the church to construct a multipurpose church hall to help youngsters from the community to develop their educational skills, which he considers as being very important.
“I entered because I wanted to be a part of something that is helping to develop young people and bring them closer to God,” Dennis told The Gleaner.
Dennis, who has been selling jerk chicken for more than 25 years at the Seaford Town HEART Trust/ NSTA institution and other locations between Hanover and Westmoreland, was very confident that he had what it takes to not only win, but to win easily.
According to Dennis, showcasing his skills in the competition has given him additional exposure and he considers the experience invaluable. He also called on other chefs to enter the competition next year to expose and help the church’s fund-raising effort.