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Jerked chicken back and cheese fritters, anyone?

Roadside chef a hit in tough Tredegar Park

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 22, 2013    

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TWO years ago John Anderson dusted off himself and declared that he'd had enough of being out of work.

After all, the global economic slowdown was in full bloom and had severely impacted the local construction industry, making it difficult for the labourer to secure jobs.

Full-time employment had never been a feature of the St Catherine native's life, but the recession had added another degree of difficulty to making ends meet for the father of two.

It was then that Anderson, now 36 years old, decided that he would make his hobby — cooking — a full-time job selling "low-budget" meals.

"From I was young I was always cooking and trying new menus at home," he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

That creativity saw him starting out selling jerked chicken on a daily basis in and around Spanish Town, Jamaica's old capital.

Two months ago, Anderson moved his "business" into Tredegar Park — a tough community in St Catherine more known for its sporadic bouts of gang violence.

The change in location has been accompanied by a creative change in his menu — the addition of cheese fritters and spicy jerked chicken back — as he tries to set himself apart from other food sellers in the vicinity.

"A food shop in Jamaica is nothing unique, and mi done realise this. But that is why mi try to come up with not only creative meals, but I prepare food at prices that is hard to follow," Anderson told the Observer.

"For $100, people are able to secure a full meal; and not just anything, because my food is well prepared," boasted the chef, who lives in Greendale.

The meal consists of an oversized fritter, priced at $20, and a serving of "spicy jerked chicken back".

"What I have decided to do is, instead of preparing food that no one else can afford, I sat down, looked at where I am operating, and realise say people having it hard and tried to come up with something [especially for] them," said Anderson as he tended to his Dutch pot of fritters perched on top of a coal stove.

Yesterday, as the chef prepared the food for sale, his waiting customers commended him.

"This is the perfect case of someone who comes up with a product and try to meet the needs of the people who don't have it, and because of that him must sell," said one customer, Merlene Whyte.

"Mi really like what the youth a try to do, and mi big him up for that," added a man who identified himself only as Earl.

Anderson, meanwhile, is intent on expanding both his menus and business in the coming months — details of which he is not yet ready to disclose.

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