Lifestyle

Ackee Season: 10 Chefs, 20 Dishes, One Fantastic Night

Thursday, July 18, 2019

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The Rock is in no short supply of culinary events. During the summer months, it would seem that there's a different must-attend foodie event being hosted somewhere that encourages your diet to remain on sabbatical until September. Not all these events are successful or deserve to be remounted. However, newcomer Ackee: A Culinary Lime for Charity is one that Thursday Food hopes sticks around for years.

Hosted on a transformed empty lot on Seymour Avenue in St Andrew's tony Golden Triangle neighbourhood on Saturday, July 6, Ackee saw 10 chefs provide tasty and impeccably styled fare to a crowd of proper food lovers. No posing here, folks: Ackee patrons came to eat, and that they did.

Matthew Hogarth, the managing partner of Matthew Hogarth & Co (MH&Co), conceptualised Ackee with his Janus Strategic Marketing Services managing director wife Lisa. The event served two purposes — to celebrate the 10th anniversary of MH&Co and to give back (100% of the proceeds) to the University Hospital of the West Indies Department of Child Heath which offered life-saving care to the Hogarths' young daughter.

Ackee proved that altruism can be tasty. The 10 chefs — Colin Hylton, Trevanne Donegal, Nadine Burie, Lisa and Chris Binns, Anna-Kay Tomlinson, Oji Jaja, Allison Porter-Smalling, Simon Levy, and Lucian Dunn — served some yummy dishes, many of which had guests clamouring for more.

Colin Hylton served a Hawaiian-style smoked marlin poke (pronounced poh-kay) and a passion fruit lemon poppy seed trifle. The smoky fish combined with the crunch of macadamia nuts, the sweetness of dried cranberries and brightness of fresh herbs made for bite after delicious bite. The trifle was transcendent, and kudos to Hylton for not skimping on the fat so that the custard remained stable in the heat of the night. Another dessert that pleased guests was Nadine Burie's chocolate mousse with peanut brittle. Burie utilised local “bean to bark” chocolate and created a dessert that was deep with flavour and utterly satisfying. Burie rounded out her dessert offerings with a caramelised Otaheite tatin on friable (a cousin to shortbread) biscuits, mini croissant bread pudding infused with rum, and homemade mini chocolate bars.

There seemed to be a permanent line-up at Simon Levy's booth where he proved that simplicity in cooking is not a bad word. Levy, the principal of Roast Meats, served housemade chorizo with rustic potatoes and hoisin-glazed smoked pork belly with sticky rice. The dishes were so tasty that you just laughed to your self after the first bite. You laughed, of course, because you knew you'd be going back for seconds and thirds. Speaking of going back for seconds, Trevanne Donegal's coconut-crusted seafood-stuffed calamari was mind-blowingly good. For her second dish, Donegal served a coffee-bbq chicken that was very moist and flavourful, but we were obsessed with that calamari.

Chef Oji Jaja showed Ackee patrons that, despite it being all in good fun, he didn't come to play. He served a smoked salmon fillet with a coconut polenta that was, in a word, perfect. Balanced, nuanced, light, but filling this dish sang. His second offering of blackened shrimp with Seville orange butter sauce was mouth-wateringly divine. Bravo, chef! Lucian Dunn of Uncorked! offered smoked salmon mousse and braised lamb. Both dishes were quite good but were not as daring as some of the other dishes Thursday Food has seen the brilliant young chef create.

 

Fun fact: Miss T's Kitchen's chef/patron Anna-Kay Tomlinson was the only chef to serve ackee at Ackee. She offered a coconut curry ackee on breadfruit crisp as well as an oxtail pocket with goat cheese and jerk sausage. Allison Porter-Smalling meanwhile took guests to Turkey with her top sirloin dürüm (pretty much shawarma) and to Tunisia with semolina shrimp served with harissa sauce.

“So, you're not kidding me, this is vegan?” was the question of the night at the booth of Lisa and Chris Binns of Stush in the Bush. They artfully engaged seafood lovers with their crunchy, well-seasoned and rather epic oyster mushroom calamari. Their spiced pumpkin ravioli were also standouts, but those mushroom calamari had guests captivated as much as they gave them trust issues. Mushrooms should not taste that good!

All this delicious food was washed down with top-shelf wines and spirits from Select Brands, coffee (thank God, there were iced versions) from Café Blue, and copious amounts of ice-cold Catherine's Peak water.

Ackee had such an impressive debut that, we reckon, going forward when you mention the word you may get asked, “Are you talking about the dish or the event?”


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