It's just past 10 in the morning, and at Ocho Rios Jerk Centre, the aroma of perfectly seasoned chicken cooking on the fire pit permeates the air. Vincent Smith, a master of his craft, orchestrates the bustling kitchen with artistry that can only come from years of experience. Hours earlier, his skilled hands had meticulously seasoned hundreds of pounds of The Best Dressed Chicken with the restaurant's closely guarded secret jerk seasoning, setting the stage for a day of food and vibes.
For over 30 years, Ocho Rios Jerk Centre has been a beloved institution in the casual Jamaican dining scene. Half of that time has been under the expert ownership of Kevin White, whose extensive career in the food industry serves as the cornerstone of the restaurant's longevity. White explains, "I've been in the food industry for 22 years. And when the opportunity presented itself, we knew we had to seize it. The transition was seamless, as we effortlessly transferred our culinary knowledge and passion." This unwavering commitment has propelled Ocho Rios Jerk Centre into the culinary limelight, solidifying its status as a must-stop venue for jerk fans.
The restaurant's menu has extensive offerings, but the jerk chicken is the crowd-pleaser. Patron Dellano Crowl agrees, saying, "I stop at Ocho Rios Jerk Centre at least twice a week. The amazing food, affordable prices and captivating ambience keep me coming back for more."
But more than the food sets Ocho Rios Jerk Centre apart. The vibrant and welcoming setting and intuitive service create a relaxed guest experience. "We cater to every guest's needs, whether they seek a leisurely lunch or a lively celebration. Ocho Rios Jerk Centre is where people from all walks of life come, bound together by their shared love for good food," says Manager Lisa Minto.
As the grill pit roars against the soundtrack of a playlist of reggae and pop faves to the delight of locals and visitors, it's easy to see that Ocho Rios Jerk Centre is an emblem of the casual brilliance of Jamaican food. In addition to its day-to-day operations, Ocho Rios Jerk Centre hosts special events like "Spicy Friday," a party featuring a host of well-known deejays. Over the years, the restaurant has welcomed a diverse array of guests, including Food Network's Guy Fieri.
When asked about the restaurant's longevity, White quickly attributes it to a simple yet profound mantra: "Hard work, dedication, commitment. That's the secret to success. You must be willing to climb over obstacles and keep going. Especially today, where distractions are everywhere, your goal is to maintain unwavering focus, work diligently, and dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to your craft. Once you do that and become a part of what you're doing, there's no limit."
The COVID-19 pandemic presented catastrophic obstacles for the restaurant, but its resilience prevailed. "When the pandemic hit, it felt like an insurmountable obstacle. But we overcame it with sheer determination. When we finally reopened our doors, we did so with an aggressive approach, bolstered by our exceptional staff and a firm commitment to providing top-notch service and the highest quality products," shares White. An outpouring of support from loyal customers and enthusiastic suppliers like The Best Dressed Chicken played a crucial role in the restaurant's revival. Today, Ocho Rios Jerk Centre continues to flourish, rooted in its dedication to providing consistency.
From its rich culinary heritage to its unwavering dedication to serving good food, Ocho Rios Jerk Centre is a true gem. As Arielle Oliver, brand manager for The Best Dressed Chicken, notes, "Their dedication to excellence and ability to bring people together through food is a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Jamaica. They truly are a part of Jamaica's food narrative, and we are proud to be part of their journey."