Loving what you do gives you all the passion and conviction you need to be great. Yanikie Tucker knew the moment she stepped into the kitchen that she was meant to cook.
Over the years, Tucker has mastered the culinary art by adding Jamaican flair to exotic dishes. When she isn’t creating wholesome island delights of ackee with either salt fish or corned pork, she is fusing Mexican food with local herbs and spices. “I like to merge those flavours because they marry well. One of my signature dishes is [jerked] pork tacos with grilled pineapples and tomatillo avocado crema. It takes everything from Jamaica and Mexico that I love,” she explained to Food.
Her cooking journey began with curried chicken. At eight years old, she had a heart-to-heart with her grandmother about wanting to watch her cook so that she could learn for herself. She leanrt from her grandmother and found her true love at first sizzle. “My favorite thing to eat was curried chicken and I never stopped watching until I figured out all the steps. It was the first thing I cooked at eight years old — one pound of curry chicken back, which hardly has any meat on it, with steamed rice. There was no turning back from there.”
Her days as a sous chef in her granny’s kitchen included chopping vegetabless, washing pans and loading the ovens, allowed her to develop her passion and skills for the creative artform. She not only sees food as a powerful tool for bringing people together, it also brings them immense joy, long before the first bite. This cultural experience inspired her to connect with foodies locally, as well as those who are living within the diaspora, like her. Before she knew it, she was going by the moniker Jamdown Foodie.
Boasting that her dishes are unapologetically flavourful, the self-taught chef and foodie shared artistic insight into one of her most celebrated offerings, roasted chicken and potatoes. It might sound like a simple meal, until she dishes on her process. “Herb-roasted with cilantro, chives or scallions, garlic, fresh thyme, and parsley. I add all-spice, ginger and traditional all-purpose seasonings from home to this dish. It is bold and delicious. Roast chicken is usually considered bland, beige and boring. Mine is not. I start it in the oven and finish it on the grill to give it that smokey touch,” she revealed.
Since staring her foodie page on January 23, she has been shocked by the warm reception thus far. On her platform, she educates her fans and followers about certain indigenous staples of Jamaica, like breadfruit, for example. She attributes this innovation to pursuing history as her major back in university and her current role as a history teacher. “As an adult, I served a professionally cooked three-course meal to my classmates right before Christmas break. I was forced to consider my passion and go after it, even if I was pursuing other things. I decided then that regardless of my career path, food and cooking would have to tag along, “ she recounted about making the decision to have her cake and eat it too.
Additionally, she puts her skills on display with video demonstrations, inclusive of recipes for viewers to follow at home. All of her quality productions are captured by her smartphone.
Looking forward to embarking on offering a pop-up dining experience in the spring, and launching her first blog by the end of February, Tucker confessed that her favourite meal to prepare still stands as curried chicken. She has only traded the steamed rice for roti.
If you love what you see here, you may follow Tucker at @jamdownfoodie on Instagram and Facebook for more information.