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And The Winner Best Food Product is...Banyan Foods: Jamosa

Thursday, June 07, 2018

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“I am totally overwhelmed, especially because the product is so new,” said Simone Banhan-Grant, managing director of Banyan Catering (the creator of Banyan Foods: Jamosa — winner of Best Food Product 2018 at the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards ) when Thursday Food caught up with her over the phone. The Jamosa (a portmanteau of the words Jamaica and Samosa) launched in February of this year and, since then, has generated all the buzz that a noteworthy food product should. Remember the advent of the chicken patty?

Since the win on Thursday last, Grant has been on cloud nine and has had a hard time describing all the emotions ricocheting around inside her head. “There are a lot of products that exist for a long time before they get recognised and this win validates all the hard work that I've put into creating this product,” she noted.

So just how did she come up with the jamosa? There was a drought in 2016 that made it difficult for Banhan-Grant to find a consistent supply of Irish potatoes — the main ingredient in a samosa. So, instead of becoming despondent and caving in to the uncooperative climate, Grant swapped her chef's hat for a thinking cap and got to work. “I said to myself, we have breadfruit and sweet potato and other Jamaican provisions, so why not use those for fillings?” She immediately realised that this new concoction could not be called a samosa and a bolt of genius struck, and jamosa was born. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

Since the initial conceptualisation, Grant spent a number of months testing the product on catering clients and family. When the Jamosa finally became faultless and she was convinced that the local culinary landscape was ready to support another product, Grant spent almost all of 2017 doing brand development, quality assurance and tackling the legal juggernaut of municipal red tape.

Banyan Foods: Jamosa beat out 11 other nominees for Best Food Product 2018, some from manufacturing stalwarts whose brands have fanatical followings. “The Food Awards weren't even at the top of my mind; everything just came together naturally,” she shared. Grant had an inkling that Banyan Foods: Jamosa would win its category, based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback that she has received so far from customers and grocers. However, this did not dilute the total shock of hearing her product's name announced as the winner during the ceremony.

There are 12 varieties of Jamosa, but a maximum of six flavours will be available on shelves at one time due to seasonality. Grant also does custom-order Jamosas, like the ever-popular oxtail, for clients. Her favourite jamosa flavours are the salt fish and breadfruit and pumpkin with curried shrimp. She is not surprised, however, that the chick pea is Banyan Food's bestseller. “People have become more health-conscious and are committed to clean eating and reducing meat intake. The Jamosas are quite filling and, when paired with a salad or 'food' (ground provisions), go from a snack to a complete meal,” she explained

At present Banyan Foods: Jamosa is available at Loshusan Supermarket, General Foods in Liguanea and Ocho Rios, Fresh Approach on Constant Spring Road, Hi-Lo Liguanea and Manor Park, Reggae Mart at both international airports, Two Hampers and a Mule at Norman Manley International Airport and, by this weekend, at CPJ Market.

Since the win, congratulatory messages have flooded the inboxes of Banyan Catering's social media accounts. “The feedback has really been phenomenal and there have been so many people asking me when they are able to get it in their parish,” Banhan-Grant disclosed. As a result, Grant is meeting with a potential distributor this week to discuss taking the Jamosa islandwide. “People's willingness to try something so different is really amazing,” said Grant, still in disbelief. The success of Banyan Foods: Jamosa is not just a case of “build it and they will come” but also a testament to ingenuity, gumption and true grit.

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