Interviews

Interview with the favorites to win the 2009 South Florida Jerk Festival contest

Written by Staff Writer

This month we Interview with Ricky Ginsburg and Ainsworth Spence, the favorites to win the 2009 South Florida Jerk Festival contest. They finish 2nd and 3rd in last year’s contest. Will they share their secrets to the best Jerk?

INTERVIEW WITH RICKY GINSBURG

Are you Jamaican?
No. But we (me and my wife, Karen) call ourselves “Jamericans”.

How did you become interested in Jamaican jerk cooking? Where did you learn how to do Jamaican jerk cooking?
 In August of 1983, we took our first trip to Jamaica. On the recommendation of our travel agent, who knew we were tired of Club Med, sent us to Couples Jamaica (now Couples Tower Isle.) At the resort we had our first taste of Jerk and fell in love with it. We’ve always loved hot and spicy food, as a matter of fact, growing up we never had ketchup, but there was always a bottle of Chili Sauce in the refrigerator. One of the staff suggested we hire a taxi and go to Boston Bay, the home of Jerk and we did. We tried Jerk at six different shacks, returning to the one we liked the best, and, after enough cold Red Stripe, I convinced the cook to give us his recipe. Over the years, we’ve tinkered with the ingredients, but always end up using the original.

When did you know that your Jerk recipe was good? Was a friend or family member who helped you verify you were good?
We knew it was good at the first Jerk Festival we cooked in Ft. Lauderdale three years ago. Apart from taking third place, one of the judges came back to us five times for more Jerk Leg of Lamb and another judge, from Jamaica, told me that I made better Jerk Chicken than her mother.

How many times have you entered the South Florida Jerkfest?
This year will be our third.

What were your finishes?
Third in the first year, but we didn’t place in the second.

You are certainly one of the favorites this year. Is there any pressure?
The pressure is trying to figure out what the judges are looking for. In the first competition, the judges were there to eat; no doubt about it. Last year, they were all professional chefs and wanted to see fancy presentations, which we didn’t really have.

What drives you to enter each year the trophy or what you learn from others?
The trophy and just smelling all that good Jerk all day long.

Most people say the proper ingredients to do Jamaican Jerk Chicken is not in the USA. Is that a true statement?
Totally false. Take a look at our Jerk Rub and you’ll find every spice available here. The only thing missing is Allspice wood, but I’m growing an Allspice tree in my garden, so we’ll have that covered soon enough.

Do you get special items for Jamaica to do your Jamaican Jerk?
The heat in our sauce comes from Bourbon Beach, on Seven Mile Beach outside of Negril and I buy dried Scotch Bonnets in Negril rather than using Habeneros, which are readily available here. We go to Jamaica twice a year and always buy enough each time to last.

Do people constantly ask you what your secret is?
No, because all my recipes are on my website – www.fawnridge.com/ricky.

So what can you tell us with out giving away your secret?
Go to my website and cook like me.

What is the best side dish to go with a jerk meal?
Homemade cole slaw, it cools against the heat of the Jerk.

The best beverage to have with a jerk meal?
For me it’s Ting when I’m in Jamaica, Pepsi or water in a restaurant here in the US, and a fine single malt Scotch whisky when I’m at home.

Any change you will be bottling your secret to sell to the masses?
No. Let someone else do it, I spend too much time at the beach to handle the project.

Does it annoy you when people put pepper on any meat and call it “Jerk”?
I’ve never heard anyone call anything that isn’t true Jerk, “Jerk.”

Vanilla ice cream of Jerk Ice cream?
I’m going to taste some at this year’s Jerk Festival.

Thanks for the interview and all the best this year in the 2009 Jerkfest.
Thank You.

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INTERVIEW WITH AINSWORTH SPENCE

Are you Jamaican?
Yes, I was born in Mandeville.

When did you know that your Jerk recipe was good? Was a friend or family member who helped you verify you were good?
When my Dad said he liked it a lot. It meant a lot to me since he has his own Jerk Recipe.

How many times have you entered the South Florida Jerkfest?
I have participated 5 times as an assistant and once on my own.

What were your finishes?
I finished 2nd in 2008

You are certainly one of the favorites this year. Is there any pressure?
I just want to do my best and give the judges flavors and tastes they haven’t had before.

What drive you to enter each year the trophy or what you learn from others?
I love to cook with new ingredients, methods and techniques. I challenge myself to expand my range and stay creative.

Most people say the proper ingredients to do Jamaican Jerk Chicken is no in the USA. Is that a true statement?
No, there are no barriers to getting quality ingredients if you want them.

Do you get special items for Jamaica to do your Jamaican Jerk?
Yes.

Do people constantly ask you what your secret is?
Not really, they usually just ask me when the food is going to be ready.

So what can you tell us with out giving away your secret?
Heat shouldn’t kill spice.

What is the best side dish to go with a jerk meal?
Hard dough bread

The best beverage to have with a jerk meal?
Red Stripe

Any change you will be bottling your secret to sell to the masses?
Maybe in the future.

Does it annoy you when people put pepper on any meat and call it “Jerk”?
Yes, to no end!

Vanilla ice cream of Jerk Ice cream?
Rum Raisin

Thanks for the interview and all the best this year in the 2009 Jerkfest. 
Thanks

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Staff Writer