Chef Omar McKay is giving the standard flavors and dishes of Jamaican delicacies a modern twist, hoping to make the food items he grew up with a lot more accessible
AKRON, Ohio — At Irie Jamaican Kitchen in Akron, plantains bubble absent in a deep fryer, and jerk chicken, remaining to marinate right away in a distinctive blend of scotch bonnet peppers, yellow onions, scallions, garlic, and spices, sizzle on the grill prime.
Right here, Chef Omar McKay hopes to allow diners a taste of the country he grew up in, although also putting his very own twist on traditional Jamaican delicacies.
Rising up in Jackson City in the Parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, McKay recollects the significance of community and remembers rising up seeing his spouse and children prepare dinner.
“Food came into my lifetime from an early phase when I was a minimal boy just looking at mother, grandma cooking, you know,” McKay explained. “It is component of the culture where by everybody’s in the kitchen, just mastering how to cook.”
McKay’s like of meals started younger, even at 10 yrs previous, he claimed he understood he desired to cook for a dwelling. McKay moved to The united states at 12 yrs previous, and by 16, he was functioning in places to eat. Eventually, he attended the culinary arts software by way of Cuyahoga Group Faculty.
“I uncovered that in culinary faculty, how-to, you know – you want to provide everybody,” he said. “So the total idea of me building Irie Jamaican Kitchen, I want to put some fusion solutions. I bought some genuine merchandise on there just to be sure to everyone.”
McKay by no means forgot the lesson of wanting to serve everyone. As a consequence, his menu requires Jamaican cuisine’s common dishes and flavors and provides them a new spin, hoping to cater to a broader audience.
“I needed to do a tiny fusion with it, to get a little twist so men and women could be a lot more comfortable to check out it, you know due to the fact a large amount of folks [have] by no means listened to of Jamaican meals,” he explained.
Seeking to share the flavors of Jamaica with other folks and not getting far too quite a few Jamaican possibilities in the spot, McKay was motivated to open his initial cafe about ten a long time back in the foodstuff court docket of Richmond City Square.
From there, he moved and tailored and now operates three spots of Irie Jamaican Kitchen during northeast Ohio with ideas to open far more web pages. His restaurant’s title will come with a specific this means.
“It’s a superior sensation term,” McKay said of the colloquial Jamaican phrase “irie.” “We’re feeling irie right now, the meals is irie. So any time you try to eat that Irie Jamaican Kitchen area, going for walks absent, you happen to be likely to be emotion irie.”
Diners may also wander away feeling the warmth, as evidenced by the use of scotch bonnet peppers in his jerk chicken marinade. According to McKay, spices, clean ingredients, and herbs are important components of Jamaican delicacies, citing dishes like jerk chicken, oxtail, and curry goat as staples.
McKay explained he has toned down that spice to make his dishes additional palatable for a broader viewers. In the hopes of encouraging far more persons to try out Jamaican food stuff, his places to eat are also quick-informal fashion, the place diners can make their very own bowls by choosing from a wide range of toppings ranging from the nontraditional mac n’ cheese to the really traditional oxtail and cabbage.
He’s also designed some other improvements to the way dishes are typically well prepared, this sort of as ending his jerk chicken in the oven instead than on the grill in the cafe environment and opting to use boneless rooster somewhat than bone-in, which he stated many Jamaicans generally favor.
In making these changes, McKay hopes his food items has a broad appeal, both of those to Jamaicans lacking the flavors of property and to people who are curious to consider the delicacies for the very first time.
“I truly feel like I attained a thing, I am carrying out my dreams, you know?” Mckay reported. “I get to remain legitimate to my roots and my culture and share that with other men and women. And it truly is a excellent feeling.”
Much more information and facts on Irie Jamaican Kitchen’s locations and menu can be found HERE.
EDITOR’S Note: The movie higher than beforehand aired on 3News on May 29, 2022.