The seventh annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival welcomed more than 15,000 guests Sunday, July 23. Patrons from the tristate area and beyond converged on Roy Wilkins Park in Queens to enjoy the full experience with a variety of vendors, demos and competitions, cultural and mainstage performances, a Kidz Zone area and sponsor giveaways.
Hosted by executive chef Wenford Patrick Simpson, the Culinary Pavilion’s Cook-Off competition began. First chef Andre Fowles of Miss Lily’s, a two-time Food Network Chopped champion, kicked things off with a cooking
demo of chicken tostadas.
Among many of the competitions between cooks and chefs, Lisa Hanna, Jamaican Minister of Culture 2012-2016 and Miss World 1993, competed against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a quick-fire challenge with mystery ingredients that included pork chops, breadfruit, granola bars and spinach. While de Blasio named his dish “Ocho Rios Explosion,” Hanna proudly won the challenge with her dish “Goodie” and later shared, “I did not come from Jamaica to be beat.”
While many patrons were captivated in the Culinary Pavilion, others roamed the food court and feasted on hot bites such as jerk corn, jerk ice cream, fish, chicken and pork, and then cooled the fiery flavors with fresh coconut water, frozen lemonade and Grace Tropical Rhythms. The long lines at Boston Jerk, Yardie’s Restaurant and Mr. C’s Jerk did not thwart guests.
“This was one of the best years of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in New York. People of all ethnicities came out for the full experience and truly enjoyed themselves,” said Eddy Edwards, CEO of Jerk Festival, LLC. “We thank everyone who came together to make this happen for the seventh year in a row, and we look forward to an even bigger event next year.