Chef Omar McKay is providing the common flavors and dishes of Jamaican cuisine a fashionable twist, hoping to make the foods he grew up with extra accessible
AKRON, Ohio — At Irie Jamaican Kitchen in Akron, plantains bubble away in a deep fryer, and jerk rooster, remaining to marinate overnight in a specific mix of scotch bonnet peppers, yellow onions, scallions, garlic, and spices, sizzle on the grill top rated.
Below, Chef Omar McKay hopes to make it possible for diners a style of the place he grew up in, while also placing his personal twist on traditional Jamaican cuisine.
Escalating up in Jackson City in the Parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, McKay remembers the value of community and remembers escalating up observing his relatives prepare dinner.
“Food came into my everyday living from an early phase when I was a little boy just seeing mom, grandma cooking, you know,” McKay explained. “It is element of the tradition where everybody’s in the kitchen area, just mastering how to cook.”
McKay’s like of food stuff commenced young, even at 10 a long time outdated, he stated he knew he required to cook dinner for a residing. McKay moved to The us at 12 yrs previous, and by 16, he was performing in dining establishments. Sooner or later, he attended the culinary arts program through Cuyahoga Neighborhood University.
“I discovered that in culinary faculty, how-to, you know – you want to provide all people,” he reported. “So the complete concept of me developing Irie Jamaican Kitchen, I want to put some fusion products and solutions. I got some authentic products on there just to make sure you everybody.”
McKay in no way forgot the lesson of wanting to serve everybody. As a end result, his menu can take Jamaican cuisine’s standard dishes and flavors and gives them a new spin, hoping to cater to a broader viewers.
“I required to do a minor fusion with it, to get a small twist so men and women could be more relaxed to try out it, you know simply because a large amount of folks [have] hardly ever read of Jamaican food items,” he explained.
Seeking to share the flavors of Jamaica with other individuals and not locating too numerous Jamaican solutions in the space, McKay was impressed to open up his first restaurant about ten yrs in the past in the foods courtroom of Richmond City Sq..
From there, he moved and tailored and now operates three areas of Irie Jamaican Kitchen all over northeast Ohio with options to open much more sites. His restaurant’s identify comes with a unique indicating.
“It’s a excellent sensation phrase,” McKay mentioned of the colloquial Jamaican phrase “irie.” “We’re feeling irie today, the food stuff is irie. So anytime you take in that Irie Jamaican Kitchen area, walking away, you might be going to be experience irie.”
Diners may possibly also walk absent emotion the warmth, as evidenced by the use of scotch bonnet peppers in his jerk chicken marinade. In accordance to McKay, spices, fresh new ingredients, and herbs are critical elements of Jamaican cuisine, citing dishes like jerk hen, oxtail, and curry goat as staples.
McKay stated he has toned down that spice to make his dishes much more palatable for a broader viewers. In the hopes of encouraging extra folks to try Jamaican food stuff, his eating places are also fast-informal design and style, where by diners can develop their possess bowls by picking from a range of toppings ranging from the nontraditional mac n’ cheese to the incredibly common oxtail and cabbage.
He’s also produced some other modifications to the way dishes are usually organized, these types of as finishing his jerk rooster in the oven relatively than on the grill in the cafe placing and opting to use boneless hen relatively than bone-in, which he claimed numerous Jamaicans typically like.
In making these variations, McKay hopes his food items has a vast attractiveness, each to Jamaicans missing the flavors of property and to people who are curious to attempt the cuisine for the very first time.
“I sense like I achieved something, I’m carrying out my dreams, you know?” Mckay mentioned. “I get to keep real to my roots and my tradition and share that with other persons. And it is really a superb sensation.”
Far more info on Irie Jamaican Kitchen’s places and menu can be located HERE.
EDITOR’S Be aware: The movie higher than beforehand aired on 3Information on May perhaps 29, 2022.