New Zealand's Capital City Captured by Jamaican FlavoursThursday, August 26, 2021
There are a little over 500 Jamaicans living in New Zealand and just one couple offering flavours from the land of wood and water in its capital city, Wellington. Since 2012, the 3 Little Birds pop-up store and catering company has been offering up reggae dishes in protest of the city's lack of authentic Jamaican flavours. Owned by business professionals Simon and Alecia Bowen, the menu narrates their family's culinary journey.
The St Catherine couple travelled to New Zealand through the United States of America, searching for adventure and lifestyle. Known as the world's windiest capital city by average wind speed, Wellington is also New Zealand's food capital. Eager to contribute to their local food scene in Kiwi country, the Bowens took care to introduce their new city to hometown flavours. Even the name of the company reflects their journey.
“Most people think that Bob Marley's song inspired the name of our company, but it is not the case,” Alecia says. It was inspired by the three countries in which the family lived. A coincidence that was meant to be. Another inspiration was Alecia's birthplace for the current menu and cooking technique.
Growing up in historic Spanish Town, the risk professional became familiar with woodfire cooking. “It's the way of the countryside. We would cook with wood fire and wood stove.” Wellingtonians find it fascinating to watch. Family vacation travels is another prominent inspiration note on the menu. Like ackee bruschetta, a fusion dish that gives Italy a foot in Jamaica.
The dish is an interpretation of a trip to Italy with Jamaican influence. Salt fish combined with olive oil, Italian tomatoes, Scotch bonnet pepper and ackee. Each ingredient is keeping its own identity whilst celebrating the other. Even the ensemble works: a rough, crisp, charred surface topped with succulent saltiness, infused by heat. The Bowens are keen to include local choices.
With New Zealanders loving fresh salad boxes, a local favourite is the Mesclun Mix and Natural Mystic greens. These dishes honour ital dieters and remind locals that Jamaicans know how to create fare that can satisfy any palate. Bring on their jerk dishes with a secret blend of three country spices, and food lovers will have the Caribbean dancing on their taste buds!
Their culinary contribution isn't the only thing Jamaicans are known for. Jamaicans are also good at adapting. Locals appreciate Caribbean culture. Many who meet the Bowens have lived and worked in Jamaica and are eager to swap cultural stories. Part of that exchange involves an appreciation of the rich culture and cuisine of the local indigenous Maori Polynesian people. Simon and Alecia are keen to understand and enjoy Polynesian flavours whilst offering up a unique concept in return.
In response to the pandemic that forced pivots in the food industry, the Bowens are preparing for a different future. They started the conversion of a 1960s fire engine into a food truck. As Jamaica became independent in 1962, the Bowens believe that acquiring the vehicle, on an impulse visit to a fabricator, is another example of what was meant to be in their journey: Fire. Fusion. Spice. This cuisine is style Jamaica, Kiwi-style.
To find out more about 3 Little Birds, please visit their Facebook page and Instagram @3lilbirdsjerk
— Bridgett Leslie is an internal auditor by day and a media correspondent by night. She is passionate about Caribbean flavours and the community around this culinary cuisine. She is currently finishing her undergraduate studies in Gastronomy at Le Cordon Bleu.