PAN Chef Inspired to build Jerk Business
Toney McLennon is by no means new to flexing his culinary skills. Before winning the top spot for St Mary in the PAN 2019 Regional One Competition, McLennon was already known throughout his community for his ability to cook up a mouth-watering meal. The Regional One Competition, held in Folly Oval, Portland, was simply an opportunity for the top chef to showcase his skills to the wider public.
McLennon is not one for the small talk. With grand finals set for October, and still several weeks away, the chef has resolved to start his own jerk business before then.
“I’m currently putting some materials together, to get things off the ground. I was hoping to get started by the end of September but it looks like it will be in October that I get things moving,” he said.
While he intends to pursue this new endeavour, win or lose, McLennon believes claiming the cash prize will have a tremendous effect on his new business.
“I’m a chef, a rounded chef. I was never interested in only jerking chicken,” shared McLennon, noting that his skills in the kitchen see him frequently requested for cooking for parties and other occasions.
“In the past, I was never going out of my way to jerk chicken. Every now and again, people may request it, so I’ve always had to dabble in that kind of cooking. But until now I never considered focusing exclusively on jerk chicken.”
The chef admitted that after entering PAN 2019, his attitude towards one of Jamaica’s favourite foods has undoubtedly changed. He said:
“It’s one of those things where you realise you have the potential to really do something; you see the way people react to it, and you think ‘maybe I can really do this thing’.”
Five contestants competed from select parishes in PAN 2019 Regional One. McLennon thwarted all contestants from St Mary, securing a cash prize of $50,000, courtesy of CB Foods.
However, he is not sure what it is about his jerked chicken that impressed the judges.
“Don’t get me wrong. I know I do what I can to make the best product. I know it tastes good; I know the sauce is great. But I can’t speak for them on the specific reason why they chose it,” he explained.
The chef will approach grand finals with the same attitude he brought to the Regional One Competition:
“I just have to do what I have to do, and do it properly. If I win then I win, if I don’t then fine. I won’t change up too many things. You don’t want to make big changes and end up turning people off.”