SUNRISE — The sprawling Markham Park was transformed into a spicy Caribbean smorgasbord on Sunday, complete with a variety of jerk flavored foods, from ice-cream to lobster.
The 2010 Grace Jerk Festival attracted thousands to the largest Caribbean food festival in the nation, now in its ninth year. Besides food, the event featured several sporting events, a kids fun zone and performances by Byron Lee's Dragonaires, John Holt, Richie Stephens and the Fab Five.
The popular event has grown from 4,000 visitors to more than 18,000, last year. Eddy Edwards, Chairman of Jamaican Jerk Festival USA Inc., was expecting even more this year.
The idea for the festival came to Edwards, he said, after he attended a chili cook-off. “I thought how about a jerk cook-off,” he said.
“Jerking” is the process of spicing and grilling meats, poultry, and even vegetables, although the most popular are jerk pork and jerk chicken.
The resulting food yields a spicy-sweet flavor and a tender texture.
The festival started with seven food vendors and has grown to more than 35 this year.
A highlight of the festival is the Publix Jerk Cook-Off, won for the second year in a row by Robert Wong.
Dreadlocks cascading well below his waist, Wong said his love for grilling was instrumental in his repeat victory. His decision to apply the jerk process to snapper, pork roast, prime rib and Alaskan king crab were also factors.
Wong has no restaurant currently but does help out at the Rice Bowl in Miami Gardens. A new venture, likely located in Broward, is in the planning stages.
The recipes, he said, are his original creation. “I’ve been cooking all my life,” he said.
Michelle Jones took second prize with her jerk salmon dish.
One food that may be difficult to associate with “jerking” is ice-cream but that dessert was created more than 20 years ago by Paul Johnson and is a popular mainstay on Caribbean menus.
Yvonne Hen and Alexander Gloria were trying jerk ice cream for the first time and were pleasantly surprised.
“There’s something about it that really tastes like jerk. It’s great,” Hen said.
Added Gloria, “It’s great, very nice. It has a pepper taste to it, it’s so good.”
Lenny Peter attended the festival for the first time this year, coming with his friend, Joban Watson, who was returning for her second festival. The duo purchased a dish of jerk chicken soon after their arrival at the park. “Terrific, finger licking,” said Watson.
“Delicious,” added Peter.
Renee Michelle Harris may be reached at RMHarris15@Bellsouth.net.
KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. JERK CHAMPION: Robert Wong, left, is presented the Jerk Champion trophy by Eddy Edwards, chairman of the Jamaican Jerk Festival USA Inc., at the festival held Sunday at Markham Park in Sunrise.