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Jerk Chicken Necks, Anyone?

Foodie News...Foodie News...Foodie News...

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The sign on the cart read: Jerk Chicken Neck. Huh? What? Thursday Food team members exchanged glances that registered 'I've never seen that before' looks.

We were on Barnett Street in Montego Bay and this we had to check out. Quickly pulling over in front of the Salvation Army church we caught up with Dave Graham and his daughter Natlia.

The father and daughter duo have been selling jerk chicken neck, chicken back and gizzards for several years now. Dave was the recipient of a grant under the HEART Trust Solidarity programme in the 1980s. Under the programme he received training to start his business and a cart, which he still has.

“Well, I used to sell soup and then when that wasn't doing so well, I started to jerk chicken and I would alternate the days. On days when I had chicken, customers would ask for a sample, which was difficult as the chicken is expensive. So, one day I was seasoning the chicken and I looked at the leftover necks and decided to season them and jerk them, as well, so customers would have something to taste and as a little extra on their purchase. The response was unexpected; persons kept asking for it and I found myself preparing as much as five pounds of it. Then it evolved to preparing it and having it as an option for purchase,” Dave explained.

“It was a cheaper option to the chicken quarters and would sell faster on sale day, and now I find I do less quarters and more necks, back and gizzard and customers are even asking for the liver. This was really a case of 'tun yuh han an mek fashion' and it's been going pretty good since,” he added.

Natlia was living in the Bahamas for a few years and, on her return to Jamaica in 2011, joined her father and decided to delve a little deeper in the preparation process.

“I was working at KFC in the Bahamas and when I came home my dad was explaining the soup market was flooded but he was having some success with jerk chicken neck and gizzard. He was saying I should join him, but I wasn't sure I could manage the preparation process. But I started and liked it and just wanted to do it as best as I could,” Natlia said.

“I love to work with natural seasonings and I wanted my chicken to taste really good. I spoke with some friends that are chefs in hotels and they gave me tips on how to get the best taste. Like blending the seasonings, how long to marinate and other tips that have really helped with the final product. If my customers don't see me at my regular time, I get calls asking, 'Neckie (no surprises there), where are you? and 'you know I don't like any other chicken but yours'. I used to pre-cook the meat first, but that cause the chicken necks to shrink and my customers didn't like that, so I have built my own sauce and I keep changing, keep improving,” Natlia added.

Natlia hopes to open a jerk centre and believes that through consistency and constant improvement she will get there.

Well, after all of this are we going to normalise going into a restaurant and asking for a serving of necks? BBQ and buffalo necks, anyone?


— Text & photos: Aceion Cunningham


Address: 48 Barnett Street, Montego Bay

Opening Hours: 12:00 noon - 7:00 pm (Monday - Friday)

Telephone #: Natlia 876-892-8427 or Dave 876-297-6738