I recently had the pleasure of having lunch at one of my favorite Jamaican soul food restaurants( StarApples) with Jacqui Sinclair, food guru, recipe writer and a returnee to Jamaica.
Jacqui, who is British born to Jamaican parents, moved to Jamaica four years ago from the culinary capital of the world: Paris. Jacqui wanted to chase her passion of establishing her own business in food, not as a caterer, but as a food media specialist.
My first question to Jacqui is,” Why Jamaica?” and then share with myself and the readers what exactly does a Food Stylist & Food Journalist do?
JuicyChef : I came back to Jamaica, after living here briefly as a teenager because I love the land of my parentage, and I saw a niche I could capitalize on. I trained at the Le Cordon Bleu but did not want to become a restaurant chef. It was a part of my master plan to be involved with food media in all its forms: writing, styling and creating recipes. My bigger dream is to have cookbooks published and a TV show, both of which I have been working on since returning.
A food journalist writes about all things food related. A food stylist creates food images for photography and film, so you will see our work in still shots for print, i.e, newspapers, cookbooks, labels, flyers, advertorials, and moving images for commercials and film. Styling is a form of communication and an art, as well as a marketing tool used to sell the food item, or as we’d say in the business, “the hero.”
Transition Sunshine: Please share what you have been doing, and why it’s important to connect in a particular way when promoting you/your business in Jamaica?
JuicyChef: I recently set up my company JuicyChef Multimedia Ltd. and I am currently looking to buy a property to set up a proper test kitchen. Currently, I borrow kitchen space at my parents’ house. I have had a weekly column in the Jamaica Observer newspaper under my JuicyChef brand for 3 years, where I discuss all topics related to food.
Locally, my work has also been published in the Jamaica Tourist, Skywritings and ECCO. Abroad, I have been featured in Eating Well, The Jewish Post, and the Florida Sun Sentinel and was recently interviewed by Fodor’s for their 2010 Caribbean edition. I keep my themes current and incorporate as much local fruits and vegetables as I can. Jamaicans are fantastic cooks so I try to inspire their creative sides and push them to try different things with everyday items.
Another project close to my heart is that I recently forged a partnership with DaVinci Jamaica Vacations where we created a food tour of Jamaica. It’s the only one of its kind on the island. My father is a hotelier, so I grew up in tourism and culinary tourism is growing around the world and Jamaicans are beginning to take it seriously. The world loves our jerk cuisine for example, so it is only prudent that we preserve our food heritage.
Transition Sunshine: What do you see as the positives of doing this type of business in Jamaica, and some of the limitations you have experienced?
JuicyChef: My overall experience has been positive, in that I have been slowly building a following by creating relationships with my readers. One has to firstly develop trust. It makes no sense for people to believe in what you do if they haven’t tasted for themselves what you are about.
Good food is unfortunately expensive in Jamaica, and it’s a challenge to get people to eat healthy if they can’t afford the ingredients, so I am always trying to push myself to create fun recipes which will appeal not only to the elite, but to the masses as well.
Some of the difficulties I experienced in the beginning stemmed from the fact that people didn’t know who I was. Now that I have built a reputation, it is becoming easier to forge contacts. I have a growing list of prestigious clients whom I hope in turn will attract possible sponsorship for my TV show, which has been to date, my biggest challenge.
Transition Sunshine: Of all the places you have traveled and been to, is Jamaica special? Where does it rank?
JuicyChef: Jamaica definitely ranks as one of the most beautiful islands on the planet. I often find myself comparing other countries to it which really isn’t fair to them. I love it here, as there are so many places with jaw dropping beauty. Bob Marley’s song “Natural Mystic” comes to my mind. God laid a loving hand on Jamaica when he created the earth. Driving around the coast is a special treat and the mountainous interior is full of surprises.
Transition Sunshine: What advice would you give to a person considering a move to Jamaica, who like yourself is British born with Jamaican parents who simply want to move to this soil, or move home?
JuicyChef: Patience! The first thing I would advise is to come with an open mind and not to compare Jamaica to a first world country. Also, forget the stereotypes, Jamaica is more complex than what you think it is, so don’t be fooled by negative images on UK television. Having lived in 5 countries, I try to take each land I visit for what it is. Jamaica is a developing country with lots of opportunities if you find the niche which is right for you. Things are slower here, so be patient. Like anywhere else, there are negative elements that may take advantage of you because they see you as a foreigner, so observe, ask questions and be humble.
I would strongly advise a person to take a couple of trips to network with people in your profession for advice. Do your research wisely. Jamaica is a small island and it’s often about connections. Business is often done in social settings such as parties, so try and get out there and meet people. Once you are comfortable here, the quality of life can be really good.
About the Writer
Dale is a Trini-American who has been living in Kingston for the last four years with her Jamaican husband, who had a life long dream of moving back to the Jamaica after living in the US for over twenty years. Dale now enjoys sharing her rich, lively Jamaican days and experiences with expats thinking about moving to Jamaica or Returning residents dreaming to make the trek “back ahh yard” through her website Transition Sunshine.