Swim Good, Aunt MayThursday, June 25, 2020
May Byrou, affectionately called Miss May by the thousands of local and international patrons who flocked Hellshire Beach in St Catherine in search of her fish, festival and lobster, passed away at 8:15 Monday morning at the University Hospital of the West Indies, where she was admitted last Friday.
She was 63 years old.
Her grand-niece Chickira Jenkins confirmed her death.
Miss May's gastronomical Hellshire spreads garnered the attention of international publications like Food & Wine, Caribbean Journal, and travel shows like the Travel Channel. Miss May was also spotlighted by culinarians Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau of 2Sistersandameal.
“The magic of Aunt May was in the honesty of her cooking: Freshly caught seafood, with just a little salt and black pepper for seasoning, always masterfully prepared. There was a purity that could not be replicated. From her little shack on the beach she made a big statement about the essence of Jamaica,” shared Odette Dixon-Neath, Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards chief judge.
It's no idle boast! Master chefs and investors jetted in to taste her fare from her nondescript kitchen on the beach. Their tastebuds would forever be tantalised. Replicating her uncomplicated cooking now would be a whole different story. Thursday Food recalls one such group of four investors who came in 2009. Who would have thunk it? Sizzling festivals straight out of the Dutch pot, alongside fish and lobster, left them chanting culinary mantras. Miss Lily's, the flagship opened in New York in 2011 with another, years later, in 2016 in Dubai and recently in Negril.
“There are some people that you see as timeless and perhaps immortal. Any plan to take a drive out to Hellshire meant a trip to eat fish from Miss May. Miss May delivered a consistent experience. For me, Miss May was synonymous with Hellshire. Fish from Miss May was always in the top three food experiences for many foreign-based Jamaicans visiting their homeland. Condolences to her family and her community, another culinary icon who made a massive contribution is gone. Rest in peace, Miss May,” said Christopher Reckord, Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards judge.
Attorney-at-law and Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards judge Matthew Hogarth shared, “Miss May's passing is the end of an era. It is not that she has not passed on and inculcated her vast culinary skills to her family and others but, for me, she embodied the experience at Hellshire. She was one of our culinary icons. The memories of her wearing her signature dress and apron with her exercise book which multipurposed for both taking orders and invoicing, helping you choose your fish, directing you to help yourself to a drink in the repurposed fridge, and tending to the fish with her left hand akimbo, are all indelibly etched on my brain. She was always so accommodating with my questions as I would invariably find myself in the 'kitchen' watching her perform her craft as I waited on my fish. No matter how I tried to replicate her fish recipes it was to no avail. I just could not replicate her mojo or the vibe. Rest in peace, Miss May. Your legacy lives on.”
For Kim Edwards-Hamilton, marketing/director/educator, World Financial Group (WFG), and a Jamaican resident in Atlanta, “Miss May is to be celebrated as an icon in the delivery of quality Jamaican food and service. Anyone who knows Miss May from Whopie kill Phillop knows that after your excellent meal you wash your hands at the pipe while she adds up your bill using that piece of cardboard to write and calculate the settlement...” #classicmissmayfeaturebackintheday
#HellshireMissMay... swim good, Miss May
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