The sixth annual Grace Jerk Jamaican Festival transformed Roy Wilkins Park to a feast of jerk flavors last weekend, and aside from all the music and food, a local recognizable face was also at the festival.
The reality-TV star and winner on the show “Chopped,” Andre Fowles, better known as Chef Andre, was a judge at the festival, deciding on the best jerk and Caribbean dishes up for competition. Fowles explains his insight and what makes a good judge.
“First thing is – you have to have a level of experience, and being that I’m from Jamaica and cooking Jamaican food all of my life, I know all about the jerk,” said Andre Fowles. “I look for good flavor, presentation, good textures, and the balance of flavors.”
Fowles participated in a cooking demonstration at the festival as well, displaying the different uses of Grace cooking products. But his favorite was getting to taste the variety of dishes, especially a dish from fellow judge, Sanetta Myrie, the 2015 Miss World Jamaica.
“She cooked a steamed fish in coconut milk with pasta,” said Fowles. “Overall everyone did a great job, the worst I might’ve tasted that day was someone else’s fish – it was overcooked and salty – I drank two bottles of water.”
Since winning on the show, Fowles is now a chef at Miss Lily’s, a Caribbean restaurant in Manhattan, saying the show gained him some fame and several opportunities, including the invitation to be a guest judge at the jerk festival.
“It’s been amazing to say the least. It’s such a good feeling to be recognized for all the work I put in,” said Fowles. “To be shown so much love from people from the Caribbean and at Miss Lilly’s — it’s all positive energy.”
Fowles has major plans in his future, including businesses but he is in no rush. One of his main goals is to create cooking videos, get into catering, and help push Caribbean cuisine more into the American culinary industry.
“Opening a restaurant is every chef’s dream — but it’s not the not top of my list,” said Fowles. “I want to start doing catering and build my brand. I want to be the person easily accessible to any food event or cooking class, and constantly advocate for Caribbean cuisine.”
As the popularity of Caribbean cuisine grows, Fowles hopes that it continues and opens doors for more avenues to explore.
“It has started already, we just need someone to start pushing barriers,” said Fowles. “It definitely has a place to stay — everyone loves Caribbean cuisine.”