On July 17 the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival returned to Queens for its sixth year. The festival celebrated music, culture, community and of course Jamaica’s famed jerk dishes.
The event brought together local Caribbean communities and put a strong emphasis on food as a means of social gathering. From the cooking demonstrations to the wide array of vendors, the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival proved that contemporary Caribbean food is about much more than Jamaica’s signature dish.
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Chef Irie jubilantly emceed the cooking demonstrations.
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Chef Samantha, a Southern native, said, "Aside from loving to eat I was always interested in the process. My mom is a terrible cook, I have an early memory of her giving me food poisoning. To this day I can't eat linguine with white sauce."
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Throughout the demonstrations, Chef Irie wove through the audience to chat with members about their backgrounds with food.
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Chef Samantha created a Jamaican twist on Shrimp and Grits for her demonstration.
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Chef Max Hardy, founder of the One Chef Can 86 Hunger Foundation, spoke of how his work as a chef connects to food activism.
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Chef Max made a curried salmon with avocado salsa.
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Chef Andre Fowles, a winning contestant on the Food Network's Chopped series, talked about his desires to "elevate Caribbean food to heights unknown."
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Patrons of the festival brought camping chairs and umbrellas, giving the event a communal feel.
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Across the park, food vendors set up shop to deliver festival goers with a huge variety of jerk themed Caribbean food.
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Cooks lobbed mounds of chicken breasts onto the grill for the thousands of festival goers.