24 Experiences, 10 Days, One JFDFThursday, November 25, 2021
There was no sign of pandemic paralysis at the launch of the 2021 staging of the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (JFDF) that, too, doubled as the official debut of the Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen. The event, held on Thursday, November 18, revealed the festival's evolution into a multi-purpose cooking studio and event space that patrons can enjoy year-round. Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen, home of JFDF, is located in Progressive Plaza, 24-28 Barbican Road, Kingston.
This year's staging, dubbed JFDF In D' Kitchen, will comprise 24 culinary experiences over 10 days — Wednesday, November 24 to Sunday, December 5. Patrons will be able to purchase tickets for cooking and cocktail seminars; interactive nights out; cooking classes for children; and Sunday brunches. Access to each event is through presold tickets available through the event's website — www.jafoodanddrink.com. In observance of COVID-19 safety protocols, classes and seminars will have a maximum of 20 participants, while 50 patrons will be able to enjoy the brunches and interactive nights out. Patrons have to be fully vaccinated by November 9 to attend JFDF 2021. Vaccination cards and digital proof of ticket purchase must be shown at the door.
Some of the cooking and cocktail classes include Bean 2 Bar (a chocolate-making class paired with Cognac) and Board Ooh! (charcuterie board assemblage with wine pairing). There are two Sunday brunches (seasoned JFDF attendees know they are the festival's hottest tickets) and a cocktail seminar entitled Shaken + Stirred. The interactive nights out will top local chefs leading guests through preparing a meal. Whether you want to polish your cooking skills or just have a fun date night, these nights out are for you. The Rum Chop (rum and pork) and S'Catch of the Day (Scotch and Seafood) events are catching our eye. There will also be two sessions of the kids' class — Rooks to Cooks.
Thursday Food received an exclusive tour and tasting ahead of the launch event. JFDF Resident Culinary Artist Oji Jaja whipped up a few delectable dishes for the team. And when we say whipped up, we aren't being superfluous. In the space of 15 minutes, there were four dishes in front of us — pan-seared salmon with parmesan polenta and beurre rouge; braised lamb spring rolls with lemon-basil pesto; coconut shrimp with mango chutney; and beef and beet tartare with avocado crème fraîche and breadfruit crumbs. Oh, and Chef Jaja also made a divine cocktail with passion fruit kombucha, Beefeater gin, rosemary, and prosecco. Of course, what we did not see in the swanky ATL-outfitted kitchen was the chef's extraordinary mise en place that made cooking live in front of our cameras seem a cinch.
During the launch event, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett showed his culinary prowess by executing Chef Jaja's pan-seared salmon dish. In essence, the minister was the kitchen's first culinary experience participant. When asked to describe the space, CB Group Limited Chief Executive Officer Matthew Lyn quipped, “It's not a restaurant, it's not a bar, it's an experience!”
The presence of the Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen brings Kingston even closer to its goal of being a leading food destination. The JFDF impressed the World Culinary Awards, which nominated the festival for the 2021 Caribbean's Best Culinary Festival Award.
After the festival ends, the team will take a day off and open the Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen to the public on Tuesday, December 7. The kitchen will host numerous cooking and baking courses during the daytime and evening and food experiences. The December programme calendar is on the JFDF website. Hurry, as some classes are already sold out. As with the festival's line-up, tickets to the kitchen's seminars and experiences must be prepaid online.
Just in time for Christmas, the kitchen boasts a Made In Jamaica gourmet store stocked with kitchen items and the best charcuterie, tea, confectionery, condiments, ready-to-cook products, and craft beer from local artisans. There, too, is an ample selection of wine and spirits from Select Brands' roster. Fun fact: the public can also book the space for corporate team building events, private functions, filming, and culinary photo shoots.
The space is top-notch and seems plucked from the high streets of global culinary destinations, and is befitting the best shows on the Food Network. Simone Raquel Williams created the eye-catching wall art, and Liz Peralto conceived the interior design.
“The execution has far exceeded my vision,” said Lyn, who was quick to highlight that the realisation of the kitchen would not have been possible without the leadership of JFDF Project Manager Nicole Pandohie and her team.
JFDF 2021 is the seventh staging of the event, and is presented by official market sponsor Visa, host CB Foods and platinum sponsors the Tourism Enhancement Fund and Tourism Linkages Network. Other festival partners include ATL, Tile City, Kohler, National, the Jamaica Tourist Board, Grace, Sagicor Investments, Appleton Estate, Butcher Block, Mystique Integrated, Heineken, Rainforest Foods, Digicel, Copperwood, Johnnie Walker, and the Jamaica Observer.