” If you ladies are free I will take you to Scotchies, down the road. Do you want to meet me in the lobby at two?”
This was after almost of week of dining at the terrific restaurant venues on property we cornered Half Moon Bay Resort’s Executive Chef Steve Sowa and expressed our interest in seeing how traditional Jerk is prepared. One thing about Half Moon Bay before we go further. They never say no. The resort understands that guests are just that, their guests. You’d never say no to a guest’s request in your own home, and they do their very best to make you feel welcome here. Indeed part of the success of Half Moon Bay is that it is owned by a consortium of families. They want to keep it a lush oasis offering mostly beach front accommodations including their own private villas. Once you arrive under the port cochere and walk into the lobby, the view straight though out to the ocean immediately invites you to relax. And the refrain ” Ev’ry ‘ting gonna be alright, mon” starts playing in your head.
At exactly two o’clock a bright red sports car pulls up. Chef is still in his whites, his toque beside him on the seat. ” Hop in” he says and we are off. Not far down the road we park under the Scotchies sign. It is named after the Scotch Bonnet pepper used in their sauces. Especially the hot sauce offered here with the smoked Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken.
Order at the window steps away from chicken or pork smoking under huge pieces of tin roofing sitting on wire topped fire pits. The interior of the pit is filled with coals topped by greenwood. The wood used for smoking in this part of Jamaica is the Pimento tree or Allspice as Americans call it. In other parts of Jamaica they use different woods so you have different flavors. It is said you can tell which part of the island your jerk comes from by the taste from the smoke. Order at the window; pork to go by the pound, or chicken by the whole, half or quarter chicken or take a seat at the bar and order via the bartender.
“Three Red Stripes ” Chef says to the lady behind the bar referring to Jamaica’s own beer. “And I want to order some food please.” In a few minutes she pops the metal caps off the squat brown bottles and places them in front of us. By this time Steve has gone over to some other chefs who have stopped in from the surrounding resorts. When he comes back he says, “All the chefs come here on their break.”
Executive Chef Sowa has been at Half Moon Bay Resort for many years, with a total of 18 years in the Caribbean. Here he oversees the operations of the various restaurants and kitchens: banquets, room service, special events, weddings, parties and the famous beach barbeque. On property there is an incredible variety all serving distinctive cuisine; an Italian restaurant Il Giardino, The Seagrape Terrace, Sugar Mill Restaurant fine dining, and Pepperpot for Jamaican dishes.
Awards? Oh yes he has them. Steve has won culinary competitions in the Caribbean, USA and Mauritius, and appeared on many TV cooking shows. He won’t tell you this, he prefers to just be Steve here at Scotchies not the past manager of the Jamaican National Culinary Team or the chef involved in chefs associations in every country he has worked in. He does tell me he likes to create ice carvings, definitely something unusual but seen in Jamaica often at banquets and events. And he a passion for training. I asked his Half Moon restaurant Chefs de Cuisine about him on the sly; no news to report here, they all like him. He readily shares his skills developed on stints around the world including Italian, French, Singaporean and Thai cuisine.
“ Want some hot sauce? ” he asks as the feast arrives. Jamaican yam, sweet potato and hunks of chicken and pork are set before us on a tray family style. We each pick up bits of jerk with our fingers as Steve shows us. “Mmm” is all we say as we taste for the first time the mix of sweet smoke flavor and spices marries with the tender flesh on first bite. A generous squeeze of the house made hot sauce and Steve cautions me to be careful. “Those are Scotch Bonnets in the sauce” he says watching for any sign that I am going to fall off my chair from the heat. A quick bite of the yam and another of potato to quell the fire and I pronounce the feast, “ absolutely delicious.”
On the Half Moon Bay Resort Property you can try Chef Sowa’s Jerk Chicken by ordering off the menu at Seagrape Terrace or at Pepperpot. Of course you should make your reservation straight-away for a stay at this incredible property and come experience this brand of relaxed elegance for yourself on the 400 hundred acre spread set along the beach. The tranquility is palpable. During our stay the resort was full but we still had a quiet time in the cabana stretched out over the ocean during our yoga class from the Fern Tree Rock
Resorts Spa, a relaxing afternoon lazing on our own private beach in front of our room, a carefree Hobie Cat ride with our own captain via Captain’s Water Sports, and a lovely swim with horses from the Half Moon Equestrian Centre. And of course the divine dining, oh the food here! Many hands and many talents work together to create the experience on your plate, but ultimately it is Executive Chef Sowa who orchestrates the symphony of taste.
Here our friend Chef Sowa graciously shares his “secret recipe” for his Jerk Seasoning for Jerk Chicken with you.
Steve Sowa Executive Chef, Half Moon a Rock Resort Jamaica
1 cup Onion, chopped
½ cup Garlic, chopped
½ cup Ginger, chopped
2 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 tsp Scotch Bonnet Pepper, deseeded
½ cup Scallions, chopped
2 tsp Ground Allspice (Pimento)
¼ cup Brown sugar
¼ cup White Vinegar
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
¼ cup Soy Sauce
Blend all items together in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Coat your chicken with it and allow to marinate for about 24 hours in the fridge. Smoke (best) or barbeque on grill. Serve with sweet potato or yam cooked in foil on the grill. And of course a Jamaican Red Stripe beer.