Miracles at the Orlando Food Truck Bazaar #2

In what could have been a no-show, CK Jerk Shack got off to a 15 minute late start at the May 1st Orlando Food Truck Bazaar #2, and kept the great Island BBQ flowing with a few minor hiccups.

After being a spectator at Bazaar #1 (read my earlier blog), we were very excited to be one of the 15 food trucks at the May 1st Orlando Food Truck Bazaar #2 at the new and improved location at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando. That excitement quickly turned to horror as I arrived at the Maitland Farmers' Market at 2:30pm to pick up the Jerk Shack in preparation for the big event and noticed a huge problem with the smoker.

Apparently, my conscientious right-hand-man Mike who covered for me at the Market that morning had misaligned the rotisserie shelves upon cleaning, and accidentally left the shelves rotating after cleaning. As a result the motor was running but a shelf was jammed and the rotisserie would not spin. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have experience with this problem - yeah, I'm not perfect either. We manually dislodged the stuck shelf and the rotisserie rotated in the wrong direction, indicating that the electric motor gear and rotisserie was not engaged (a $100 repair). That was a blessing in disguise as I mistakenly had the weak point (by design) strengthened the first time this happened and the alternative is a mangled mess of steel shelves (a $1500 repair). That was Miracle #1!

So here Mike and I are happy the damage was minimal, but freaking-out because the rotisserie was busted and we have a major event to do in a couple hours and hundreds of pounds of pork, chicken and shrimp marinating. So I say to Mike, if you believe in prayer, now is the time. To our delight, the rotisserie started working and we shouted, "Praise the Lord." Miracle #2.

So we arrive at the Food Truck Bazaar 45 minutes behind schedule due to all the problems and a little stressed, turn on the rotisserie and sanitize the shelves with a propane blow torch. We start loading the rotisserie with pork butts (shoulders) in the normal fashion, and to our disgust and probably a few choice words, the rotisserie starts moving due to gravity in the wrong direction. So I say to Mike, " time for us to pray again." Turned on the rotisserie and it would not engage, but the good Lord did give me the idea to lift the shelves and unload the pork butts and attempt to loan them in a more balance fashion. Once unloaded the rotisserie appeared to spin fine, so we loaded the meat in a balanced fashion with the rotisserie rotating all the time and fired up the secondary grill just in case. It was a little tricky and we got a few burns but we eventually got a reasonable load on the smoker with only a few gear slips, thanked the Lord and started cooking. Miracle #3.

Running way behind schedule now, we are multitasking like crazy, smoking at a higher temp than usual, and checking the rotisserie every now and then to make sure it was still rotating. So it's 6:45pm and we have a line of about 20 people. So we change the opening time to 7:15pm and notify the line of the delay and what items would be available. Thankfully, no one left. Opened at 7:15pm to a line of about 50 people and it stayed that way until around 8:30pm. We served up our Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork Jerk Shrimp and Vegan Island BBQ Boats in quick fashion to a great line of customers. One we got stated the line really moved. We had intermittent outages of jerk pork and jerk chicken due to our smoker issues, but never ran out of food.

Despite the challenges, everything turned out great, except the jerk shrimp that were very tasty, but a little overcooked and customers were happy.

The crowds started dying down around 9:30pm and only a few trucks continued to have long lines - Korean BBQ truck and the Chicken and Waffles truck. I was curious if these trucks food was so good or if they were just slow. Since I didn't get a chance to try the trucks at the first food truck bazaar, I took the opportunity to take advantage of the slow down and walk around. Had a chance to try the ribs at Firehouse BBQ and the beef taco at Korean BBQ and both were excellent. At the end of the night, the Lord reminded us of the miracles as we attempted to clean the cooking shelves and they would stop rotating when we applied a little force to the grill brush.

So in summary, the Lord was miraculous that night, and the second bazaar was even better than the first - great food, great music, plenty of space and parking, opportunity to eat at multiple if not all the trucks if you had a big budget and stomach. Only thing missing were portable toilets. Looking forward to the Orlando Food Truck Bazaar #3 and no problems, Mon!

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Orlando Food Truck Bazaar a Huge Success

Just got back from the launch of TheDailyCity.com Orlando Food Truck Bazaar and it was a smashing hit, at least for the organizers.

Attendance I suspect was over 3000 and probably more than quadruple what organizers and food trucks expected. That’s the strength of the food truck food court concept and the power of social marketing. I arrived hungry at 8:30pm with plenty of cash and plans to eat my way around every truck. Well the lack of parking and crowds of people walking down the sidewalk was my first clue that the event was well attended. I parked and walked in and quickly realized I’d be going home hungry. Vendors were slammed with lines of 50 plus patient patrons deep. Despite the lines there was a positive buzz in the air and no one looked or behaved in an angry fashion.

Since I wasn’t going to be eating, I figured I’d make the most of my time talking to and scoping out the vendors (many of which were already sold out half way through the event), taking pictures and promoting my Gourmet Island BBQ “Food Truck” and Catering Business. So I went back to the car and grabbed about 200 business cards and went through them in 15 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people that had already heard of CK Jerk Shack and/or had tried our food, and the number that were interested in visiting us at the Sunday Maitland Farmers’ Market and at the Spring Fiesta in the Park this weekend at Lake Eola Park. We’ll be at the corner of Eola Dr and Washington St. by the children’s playground. Everyone was talking about and looking forward to a bigger and better food truck bazaar next time.

Well based on tonight’s phenomenal attendance, organizers will more than likely implement their plan to do this on a regular basis. The Orlando Food Truck Bazaar achieved its goal to celebrate and promote Orlando's wonderful food truck culture. CK Jerk Shack is looking forward to being a key vendor at the next event and providing Orlando with a tropical excursion through the sites, sounds, smells and tastes of the Islands. Our most popular items are Gourmet Island BBQ Boats, which are your choice of oak-smoked jerk chicken or pork, with sweet guava or hot habanero bbq sauce, served over a bed of coconut rice & beans. Eat Jerk. Be Happy, Mon!

Island BBQ Cooking Tip #1

BBQ can be so much more than a wood-smoked flavored tender piece of meat.

Tip #1: Let the seasoned meat marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours before cooking.

I observe so many amateur and professional cooks take a raw piece of meat from its original packaging, season and immediately throw on the grill or smoker. This may work OK with small cuts of meat like steaks, chicken breast cutlet, fish fillets and shrimp, but is a big no no for large cuts for which I recommend 4-24 hours. Even for small cuts, I recommend 30-60 minutes of marinating time for a flavor boost.

Is it Jerk?

Everyone seems to have "JERK" on their menu these days, reflecting the popularity of jerk and Jamaican culture. From fine dining to fast casual to your hole-in-the-wall Jamaican restaurant with a charcoal grill in the back yard, everyone is selling jerk. However, as we all know, all jerks (in the kitchen and in life) are not created equal.

So what is jerk?

Jerk has been described by many, as one of the World's true great culinary delights. I agree!

Jerk is Jamaican BBQ. The word jerk refers to the seasoning blend (wet or dry rub), the cooking method, and to the meat, poultry, seafood, and even vegetables that have been treated to the jerk seasoning and cooking processes (jerk pork and jerk chicken are the most popular items). The resulting food yields a spicy-sweet smoked flavor and a tender texture that is out of this world.

The seasoning blend varies significantly from restaurant to restaurant and pit master to grill novice, but the two key ingredients are scotch bonnet peppers and ground allspice (pimento). So, no badda call it jerk if it no hav dem two ingredients deh! Other popular ingredients are scallions, cooking oil, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, sugar, thyme, lime juice, soy sauce.

The cooking method varies significantly from restaurant to restaurant and pit master to grill novice, but the one key ingredient is a charcoal fire. So, no badda call it jerk if it no cook under, over or beside charcoal fire! Yeah, I'm talking to you folks cooking jerk in the oven, on a gas grill, in a pellet cooker, electric smoker or Southern Pride/Fast Eddy type smoker. The most authentic jerk uses charcoal made from pimento wood and a cooking grate made from small green pimento branches rather than iron or steel. Unfortunately these materials are not available for most of us. You can improvise a bit by making a foil smoke pouch of allspice berries or leaves.

As a jerk pit master always looking to learn, I typically try jerk and other forms of BBQ wherever I go - London, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Cincinnati, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Malaysia, Nassau, Bahama Breeze, Golden Krust, Island Grill, Jerk Hut and Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and jerk and pan chicken all over the island of Jamaica (Portland, Boston, Mandeville, Ocho Rios, Kingston, Spice Grove, Negril, Montego Bay, and more).

Here are a few of my findings:

  1. Jerk chicken tastes better chopped into bite sized pieces. Don't ask me why.
  2. Great flavor is seasoned and cooked in, not added after.
  3. If it is served with jerk gravy, order something else.
  4. Gravy and BBQ sauce should be optional and only compliment the flavors, not be the key source of flavor.
  5. I've yet to find an acceptable boneless, skinless jerk chicken breast (the most popular method on mainstream menus). Please leave the skin on.
  6. Many restaurants, especially Jamaican owned, hide their seasoning or cooking method deficiencies with excess pepper. Who can taste anything when dem mouth bun off? My philosophy is "You can add heat, but your can't take it away. So keep the bottle of scotch bonnet pepper sauce on the side."
  7. Many cuts of pork require a longer cooking time and skill than many cooks are willing to invest or possess. So many parboil and then finish on the grill. Yuk! Simply take the time to slow smoke or butterfly the meat such that it takes less time to cook.
  8. You can jerk more than just chicken and pork. See one of my earlier posts.
  9. Jerk is by far the best BBQ flavor profile.
  10. Even "Jerk" entrees not prepared with the right seasoning or cooked the right way, can taste really, really good. But they are not "JERK." Enjoy them anyway.
This linked joke will give you an idea of the diversity of jerk cuisine on the market. CK Jerk Shack Gourmet Island BBQ is more like "Plate #8".

Eat jerk. Be happy, mon!

Started Offering My Cuisine at the Maitland, FL Farmers' Market

I started at the Maitland Farmers' Market this Sunday 9:00-2:00. It's a new market (less than 1 year) and this was the first Sunday at the new bigger and better location. Unfortunately, the venue appeared to be too small for me to safely manuever my large trailer, so I reluctantly decided to experiment with a tent operation and a simply no-cooking menu.

Chilled Island BBQ Shrimp Bags - $10 (approx. 1/2 pound - 15 peel n' eat shrimp

Take Home & Reheat
Oak-Smoked Jerk BBQ Pork Slabs - $12/lb
Oak-Smoked Jerk BBQ Beef Slabs - $14/lb
Oak-Smoked Jerk BBQ Baby Back Ribs - $15/lb

Items were cooked the evening before, quick chilled. weighed, packaged, priced and refrigerated. Then sold cold for reheating at home, with reheating instructions and catering coupon. Other Guava BBQ Sauce - 5.5 oz container - free with bulk meat purchase or $3 Jerk Wet Rub Scotch Bonnett Pepper Sauce.

Sales from my first outing were below my goals because the attendance wasn't that great, I didn't have the trailer with the great smells and ability to serve ready to eat meals/sandwiches, and most significantly, my slabs of meat were just too big and too expensive. While I did sell quite a few $30 slabs of meat, everyone wanted the $15 slabs and they went early. $15 to $20 is really the maximum recommended price point per item. By the time I decided to cut slabs if necessary, it was pretty much too late.

Bottom line: A tent operation is a lot more work for me and very limiting. The market has great potential. People really loved the free samples. Customers and vendors are a great group to work with and serve. Organizers are committed to making it a great market. And I'll be back next Sunday, and with my trailer. Turns out I can get a great end-cap position and stay on a hard surface. My menu will be a lot different next Sunday and I look forward to selling out.

Roast Breadfruit Cooked In A Different Stylee

Went by my local Caribbean Super Center (a full-sized Caribbean supermarket in Orlando at Colonial Drive/Pine Hills Rd) to pick up a few things for a catering job and noticed they had a bunch of fit breadfruit for sale. So I picked one up to trow on my rotisserie smoker (charcoal and hardwood) to roast alongside my jerk chicken and jerk pork.

After about 2 hours the breadfruit skin developed a beautiful brown color and the breadfruit was roasted to perfection. Peeled it and added a touch of kosher salt and butter. Absolutely wicked and with a nice smokey taste!! Almost as good as the fire-roasted yellow-heart breadfruits I used to eat in Spice Grove, Jamaica, compliments of my brethren Donovan "Pea Dove" Campbell. If I could only find the yellow-heart breadfruit here in Orlando. The white-heart one was great, but yellow-heart is much better.

Attempted to roast another one in my home electric oven and learned why I have never seen it done that way in Jamaica. Edible, but poor outcome. Stick to the gas stove top, wood/charcoal fire or wood/charcoal smoker.

Next time I'll take some pics. I was too excited this time.

Peace & Blessings!

Jerk BBQ Rabbit

From Food Pics
Noticed my local Publix Supermarket had frozen rabbit recently, so you know seh me had to buy some and jerk it (see pics). Rabbit meat looks and tastes very much like chicken, but it is much leaner and usually only available skinned rather than plucked, so be careful it doesn't dry out while barbecuing.

Back when I was a boy growing up in Jamaica I used to raise, butcher and stew rabbits, so this brought back memories. My old man would build these huge rabbit pens using nothing but slim branches cut from the woods.

All in all, I'd jerk rabbit again but I prefer Jerk Chicken.

Peace & Love!