Grace Kennedy is without a doubt one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands and a staple in Jamaican households. Their mackerel and ketchup are unanimously touted as the best, and with their popular creative cooking TV series spanning across decades, the brand has enjoyed an especially cemented place in people’s hearts.
This is a relationship they hope to build on with the appointment of their new Executive Chef, Shea Stewart, which was officially announced with an intimate celebratory dinner for Grace executives, partners and the media, catered by Stewart at The Porch.
It promised to be an elegant affair, and, on entrance, team BUZZ was not disappointed —New Levels Décor did the atmospheric styling fabulously. A refreshing welcome Cocktail dubbed the “Grace Bubbly”, made with Tropical Rhythms Pineapple Ginger and Mionetto Prosecco, took our expectations even higher. The stage was set, and we were ready to dine, eagerly anticipating the four-course menu.
Chef Shea is known to delight… indeed; his JFDF offerings was still very fresh in our minds. On the menu, was:
Roasted corn chowder with bacon cilantro and Scotch bonnet oil, garnished with baby red cabbage, paired with Trivento Mixtus Chardonnay Chenin.
Our thoughts: Fantastic! Rich and layered with the flavours and textures dancing beautifully together… 10/10!
Crispy Pork Belly with Asian slaw and a chilli ginger caramel sauce topped with complementary micro basil, and paired with a Ménage à Trois Luscious Pinot Noir… perfectly bodied for a nice finish on the palate.
Our thoughts: Everyone’s favourite for the night. Expertly seasoned—marinated in Grace Jerk Sauce for a teeny hint of spice— and unbelievably succulent, with the lightness and freshness of the slaw for balance… easily another 10!
Coriander Spiced Broiled [Red] Snapper on a bed of smashed chickpea dahl. This was garnished with cilantro sprouts and served with Columbia-Crest Two Vines Unoaked Chardonnay, an unconventional choice [Chardonnay is usually oaked] which helped to brighten the flavours in the meal.
Our thoughts: This is definitely the BUZZ team’s top choice. The unexpectedness of the flavours – the fish [freshly caught that morning] and dahl worked beautifully together, and the chosen Chardonnay was the perfect complement. 10!
Vanilla Cream Cake with coffee gelato, salted pistachio and raspberry coulis – inspired by one of Chef Shea’s favourite childhood desserts, ice cream and cake. In his address, he shared that he wanted a dessert reminiscent of the feelings he had as a child, but elevates the presentation, texture and taste, hence the pistachio and raspberry coulis. This was levelled up even more with the pairing of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.
Our thoughts: Brilliant! The cake was light and fluffy, the gelato rich, but not overbearing. The fresh raspberries atop each slice gave the right kiss of tanginess, and the coulis and pistachio were a nice touch with each bite. We absolutely loved it… again, 10.
In a word, dinner was stellar. Every bite was one to savour and commit vividly to memory. The experience was also quite enjoyable — the waitstaff was courteous, knowledgeable and effective, the meal was amazing, the wines —all provided by Harbour Wines and Spirits, a division of Grace Kennedy Ltd—were lovely, the music was just right, and the volume allowed for good conversation.
Speaking of which, we had the opportunity to speak with Grace Food’s General Manager, Tamara Thomas, who was happy to give us some insight on Chef Shea being an ambassador for the brand.
We’ve had the privilege of working with Shea on previous occasions; he’s humble, very professional, and excellent at his craft. He has a lot of talent and always cooks with love, no matter what he makes. He feels like a good fit for us, with our history of doing creative cooking. I’m excited to see what our collab will bring, especially with our partnership with the Chillin’ restaurant’s mobile truck, where we’ll be doing Grace Kitchen on Wheels. It’s a one-year contract, at least, so we have quite a bit of initiatives to enjoy with him.
She then explained that Chef Shea will join the Grace Kitchens team in various culinary settings, taking his talent to the streets as well as to the five-star dining experience and everything in-between on the Chillin’ With Grace food truck, as well as on the party scene through a collaboration with the promoters of the much-loved Zimi Seh Brunch.
Of course, we had to hear from the man of the hour, who was grateful, focused and ready to work.
I’m very proud of the partnership with GRACE, he shared. As young as I am, I’ve had a long culinary journey as I’ve been a chef for over ten years. I’m locally trained, studied at HEART Runaway Bay and growing up, seeing GRACE, loving their products, then learning about them and knowing what they represent as an international company, too, you never know where you will end up. I never thought I would end up as a partner with Grace.
He continued, I think it’s a great opportunity for me and for them, to partner with somebody local that has flair and can represent them on an international level… I’m ready to make my mark. It’s a good feeling… really an honour, and I had a great night.
On recovering from the explosion of flavours—the food certainly made us emotional—we had to ask him for his inspiration. He said:
The menu is a little of exposure, a bit of inspiration and lot of gut feeling… I think I was born to be a chef, so a lot of these ideas just come naturally. In India, they pair a lot of seafood with dahls instead of sauces, and I wanted to incorporate Grace’s new line of chickpeas and other legumes, and their curry. The menu tonight had some Asian influences; the dessert had a French influence, plus local tastes coming together as a melting pot vibe. Outside of that, flavours have been ingrained in me and now it’s just become common sense. I’m a fusion too, it’s a mixture of many things coming together to give you Chef Shea.”
We’re certainly convinced. Congratulations again to Shea Stewart, Grace Foods’ newly appointed Executive Chef… no easy feat, and certainly well deserved.