It`s All About Jerk For Caribbean Chef

November 5, 2009

CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Nov. 6, 2009: Caribbean-born Chef Helen Willinsky developed an interest in the tropical fruits and vegetables used in the region`s flavorful cuisine at an early age and this weekend she will share her take at the  8th Annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival gets underway on November 8 at Markham Park in South Florida..

Growing up in Jamaica, a former British colony, Willinsky says she always thought that British cooking was `pretty dull` and so she turned to local products to create one-of-a-kind tastes that are delicious, interesting and perfectly balanced.

After completing high school in Kingston, Jamaica, Willinsky trained at the Ecole Hoteliere in Lausanne, Switzerland. She spent several years cooking professionally in Europe before returning home. In 1978 she emigrated to the United States bringing the secrets of the island recipes with her and founded Helen`s Tropical-Exotics.

She sees herself as was the `originator` of bringing the dry jerk seasoning to the United States to chefs and American consumer.  Helen`s Tropical-Exotics includes authentic jerk dishes of all kinds as well as marinades, pastes, sauces and seasoning capture the zest and excitement of Caribbean cuisine.

In 1990 Chef Willinsky published `Jerk from Jamaica` and in 2007 released a completely revised edition that begins by explaining exactly what jerk is  – `an authentic Jamaican method of cooking pork, chicken, seafood, beef, fruits, and vegetables over a fire pit or on a barbeque grill` – and how it`s seasoned (in general, a combination of scallions, onions, thyme, pimento, cinnamon, nutmeg, chilies and salt).

She first explains how it`s done in Jamaica (where jerk huts can be found everywhere), then demonstrates how these recipes can be adapted to a kitchen or backyard grill. Recipes for jerk rubs, dry seasonings and marinades are included in the first chapter, as well as a list of traditional Jamaican ingredients, like breadfruit, a large starchy vegetable.

To order visit or go to: or catch Chef Willinsky in South Florida by getting a ticket to the event at

Here are two of Chef Willinsky`s American adapted recipes using her favorite spice.
 Jamaican Coleslaw
Coleslaw and barbeque make great companions. This version adds spice to give it a taste of Jamaica.
4 cups shredded cabbage
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Helen`s Dry Jerk Seasoning
In a large bowl combine cabbage, carrots, and walnuts. Set aside.
In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and seasoning.
Combine the cabbage mixture with mayonnaise mixture.
Mix well. Cover and refrigerate (at least 30 min) before serving. Serves 4.
 Sauteed Mushrooms a la Jerk
1.5 lbs sliced mushrooms (approximately 4 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine (dry)
1 tablespoon Helen`s Dry Jerk Seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley (optimal)
In a large frying pan melt olive oil and butter together in medium heat.
Add onion and saute until slightly softened (approximately 2 min).
Add mushrooms and increase the heat. Saute until mushrooms become soft and produce quite a bit of liquid and are rich and brown in color (approximately 5 min).
Add the white wine and Helen`s Dry Jerk Seasoning.
Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are perfectly coated.
Sprinkle with Parsley and serve. 

Jerk Festival


Publix Cook-Off And Demos Add Spice To Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, November 8, 2009, Florida

Published Oct 29, 2009


Jerk cheese, jerk peanut butter, jerk caviar? Why not? Find out how and be the first to sample some of the most creative jerk inspired dishes at the 8th Annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival on November 8 at Markham Park in the city of Sunrise.

The cooking promises to be hot and spicy as the Publix Jerk Cook-off pits celebrity chefs against each other in a quick-fire contest. Patrons will get a real treat when the celebrity cook-off gets under way with big-name personalities such as NBC television broadcaster Sharon Lawson, 103.5 The Beat’s Vanessa James, Rodney Baltimore of Hot 105, and WPLG 10 news reporter Terrel Forney. The fun, and some serious cookin’, will begin when the clock strikes and the celebs choose their favorite ingredients. Then it’s up to the judges, to taste and crown the best celebrity chef of them all.

Hot and Spicy
“The Publix Jerk Cook-off pavilion is always hot and spicy and full of excitement”, says June Minto, festival food and competition coordinator, adding, ‘last year we had several celebrity contestants and judges; this year will be no different”.

In fact, cooking demonstrations will be led by some of the industry’s best known chefs. Irie Spice (Hugh Sinclair), always in demand and recognized for his culinary flair across South Florida; Helen Willinsky, jerk aficionado, owner of Helen’s Tropical Exotics, and successful cookbook author; and prominent chef and top ranking participant on Bravo television’s Top Chef program Sara Mair, will show patrons the limitless uses of jerk and officiate the big competition of the day.

The Publix Jerk Cook-Off heats up with ten participants who know seh fi dem jerk a di bess. With all the ingredients they will need at their fingertips, the expectant jerkers will show off their culinary skills to the renowned judges who will make their marks based on taste, presentation, attire, and the ‘want more factor’. With bated breath and satisfied taste buds, judges will declare the top winner who will walk away with the $1500 first prize and the coveted Dutch Pot award, indeed a mark of distinction among Caribbean

culinary artistes.

Over in the Grace Kitchen, patrons will also get in on the food arts with cooking demonstrations featuring some of Grace Food’s newest products. Get ideas for lunch box snacks, hors d’oeuvres, and formal meals from Grace’s cooking expert Chef Mazie Miller. You might even get a chance to stir the pot at this hands-on cooking station.

Stir the Pot
Get your tickets early for the much anticipated largest Caribbean food festival in the United States. Remember, organizers have held advance ticket prices at last year’s level -- just ten dollars, available online at or at selected Caribbean outlets. Day of event tickets will cost $20 at the gate. Children ten years and under will be admitted free. Special all inclusive VIP packages are available through the festival office. Bring the whole family and make it a day of jerk, fun, and entertainment.

The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, presented by Publix and Air Jamaica, is sponsored by Western Union, Digicel, Tobacco Free Florida, Toyota of Hollywood, The Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica National Money Transfer, and County Line Chiropractic Centers. The event is produced by Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc., in association with Jamaica Awareness, Inc.

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