Thirty-nine-year-old Jason Evelyn is a former student of The Lodge School, a graduate of the PomMarine Hospitality Institute as well as a graduate of Johnson and Wales with a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts. He has recently been selected as one of the judges in this year’s National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) Culinary Arts Competition.
Barbados TODAY sat down with chef Jason Evelyn at his recently opened Clamon Cherry Bar and Restaurant located in Codrington Hill, St Michael to talk about how he got started as a chef as well as his recent post as a judge in the NIFCA Culinary arts competition.
Q: What inspired you to pursue culinary arts as a career?
A: Cooking has always been my passion from The Lodge School. I was the only fifth form student that used to run the home economics room. I would get the key and go in the home economic room and start cooking and baking. All of my teachers as well as students encouraged me because I had a natural gift for it and a natural talent for it.
So, that was just automatically developed and honed and I just pursued it because I loved it.
Q: After you left The Lodge School did you receive any formal training to become a chef?
A: Yes, I did. I went to PomMarine Hotel at Barbados Community College. I was in the first group of culinary arts students and while doing the culinary programme there I decided that I would go to Johnson and Wales to pursue the degree programme. I wanted the international experience and exposure. You know when you are young you have these grand ideas to travel and see the world so I decided I am going to Johnson and Wales.
Q: It is known that Johnson and Wales is an international culinary university that has trained some of the best chefs in the world. Were you trained in international cuisine techniques?
A: I was trained in culinary arts but the degree is so intense you are trained in cuisines from all around the world and also creative cuisines. So, you were challenged to do different things. That programme, as the Trini’s say, ‘it is real pace’ because you have to be creative and then you have to be able to do a lot in a short space of time. An average day at Johnson and Wales is an eight-nine-hour day and then you have your projects and then you have your studies.
Q: After receiving formal training you decided to open Clamon Cherry Bar and Restaurant in February 2017 which serves only authentic Barbadian cuisine. What prompted you to stick to your roots?
A: No one can list ten places in Barbados that serve only Bajan food and that is sometimes during the day too. Everybody likes to do international cuisine and fusion cuisine. When tourists come to Barbados they want an authentic piece of Barbadiana; they want to see what foods we use; they want to taste our cuisine. Most tourists love to try things. They do not want to come and have the same things that they would get in their country because that is the reason they travelled – to experience new things. Sometimes they are not able to get to Oistins because of how the trip is scheduled and so on. And I said that when I start my own business, I would do authentic Barbadian cuisine.
Q: Why authentic Barbadian cuisine and not any other form of cuisine that you were taught at your various levels of culinary training?
A: I think authentic Barbadian cuisine is a cuisine that is dying. How many places in Barbados can you go and get an old-fashioned grandma cou-cou with the okras and stuff in it? How many places can you go and get the seasoning stuffed inside the chicken and not just the seasoning rubbed outside with the salt and pepper? That is what I try to do. Errol Barrow – Yes Errol Barrow he did a cookbook that I use often because there are many things in his cookbook that I have not begun to try yet. So I am trying to revive that authentic Bajan cuisine.
Q: Were there requirements to be a judge in NIFCA culinary arts?
A: I believe there are requirements for being a judge in terms of I do have the qualifications and experience. Most of the other judges I know have the qualifications and experience. The exact criteria for judges I cannot speak of but I am chosen, so I believe that I met the criteria which are book work, qualifications and the experience.
Q: Are you excited to be a NIFCA Culinary Judge this year?
A: I am so excited I cannot wait. I was shocked to be chosen. I am excited as it is a part of my giving back because I always wanted to go back into the culinary [arts]. You know the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts needs a little bit of revamping. I wanted to get in it and now I can see where I can make recommendations and if I could assist and if it builds Barbados as it usually does. I am excited and this is an experience that I will cherish.
Q: What is your advice to young students who are interested in becoming involved in culinary arts?
A: If you have a passion… Follow your passion if you want to do culinary arts. (LG)