Jamaican Cuisine Comes to Michigan with Kingston Kitchen

Jamaican Cuisine Comes to Michigan with Kingston Kitchen

Shawn Fearon, a Jamaican-born chef, is ready to open his Kingston Kitchen restaurant in Okemos, Michigan, during the first week of October 2017. The restaurant is decorated with art showing Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, Dunn’s River Falls, the Reggae Boyz, and a bobsled team, all of which tell a story of Jamaica, he said.

According to Fearon, it will be an “open concept” kitchen, and he plans to be cooking with his chefs. The menu will include three-cheese ackee dip served with plantain chips. Ackee is one of the chief ingredients of Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. Fearon says that his approach will be to “infuse” the flavors of Jamaica into American cuisine. Other featured dishes will be jerk chicken fettucine alfredo, West Indies sirloin, and Irie macaroni and cheese available with jerk chicken or pork. “Irie,” he says, means “everything is good” in Jamaica. He also plans to serve Patwah pork chops, noting that his native language is Patwah; the chops will be seared and topped with pineapple chutney and caramelized walnuts.

Fearon, one of nine children raised by a single mother, which has given him a special appreciation for “talented, hardworking women” and a love for Jamaican poet and folklorist Louise Bennett who helped to promote the Jamaican language worldwide and “paved the way for Bob Marley.”

Upon leaving high school, he worked in a hospital kitchen and delivered food to the wards. After a year, he learned to cook and realized that he really loved doing it. All the food he cooked at the time was vegetarian as the hospital was run by Seventh Day Adventists. He then attended a vocational culinary school, received a certificate after a year, and applied for a work exchange summer program to work in the United States.

He went to Mackinac Island in Michigan thinking it would be like Texas. He found out that even though it was the end of April, the weather was freezing cold. He arrived in Michigan with only what he was wearing and about US$30. He couldn’t afford to buy clothes, but “I was a working fool,” he said. Fearon held three different jobs: as a cook until 3 pm, then as a server until 9 or 10 pm, then when he realized there was still some daylight on Mackinac Island at that time, he got a job an a construction site from 9 pm to 11 pm.

His US visa expired in 2004, so he returned to school in Jamaica and worked under several chefs. He returned to the US in December 2007 on the same work exchange program and has been in Michigan ever since.

When thinking about opening his own restaurant, Fearon knew he wanted to bring the experience of Jamaican hospitality to the area. He plans to obtain as many ingredients as he can locally, but may have to bring in some of his Jamaican ingredients from Chicago.

Source: Kingston Kitchen

About the author

Stephanie Korney