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Jason’s way

Natanga Smith

Jason’s way

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Chef Jason Howard hosted a six-course meal at the House of Wolf in London two weeks ago. He combined his experience as a trained fine dining chef and his Caribbean roots to create a menu with new and exciting flavours. The reservations sold out within 36 hours “and it was well received by everyone . . . . I also got a round of applause when I came out to greet my guest after the last course”.
Chef Jason believes the key to the cuisine is the balance of flavours. Each skilfully crafted dish is well thought out to create a balance of subtle spices without being spicy, melt-in-the-mouth buttery finishes without being too fatty and the use of fruits working in harmony with savoury ingredients.
The menu carried names such as caramelized sweet potato and tarragon veloute with a bay leaf coconut foam; Caribbean style seafood broth; main jerk chicken breast with Caribbean steamed veg and a crispy bajan black cream; and red sorrel crème brûlée palate cleanser served with a roasted vanilla and nutmeg cream.
Chef Jason is currently junior sous chef at the luxury Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, West London.
“The reason for the choices is that the dishes complement each other and they also clean the palate for the next course so three out of the six courses were palate cleansers so my guests could appreciate each course and the different flavours from the Caribbean.
“The reason for the names of the dishes is to make them feel more Caribbean and yet more international but yet everyone can understand what they are.”
Chef Jason, 32, grew up in Reed Street, St Michael. A past student of St James Secondary, the 32-year-old got into cooking by chance while working as a porter at Tamarind Cove Hotel.
“I fell in love with the food and the job. I then started cross-training to become a commis chef, and within three months I was promoted to that position.
Chef Jason moved to London when he lost everything to a fire in 2009.
“I wanted a fresh start. I was despondent but I couldn’t let that get me down.”
He started working in a Caribbean restaurant named Cottons as a commis chef, a step back as when he left Barbados he was a chef de partie.
“I was in London so I was humble and said let me take this one day at a time. But my skills I learnt in Barbados made me stood out and things started looking up for me.”
Chef Jason used his knowledge of Caribbean cuisine to make his mark in kitchens at the Clerkenwell in Farringdon, then The Chancery in Cursitor street as a demi chef. He then moved to the First Floor Restaurant in Portobello Road as a chef de partie and within a year he became sous chef.
In 2011 he went on to the Connaught hotel, which is rated two star Michelin.
“It was a step backwards as a junior sous chef but it was to work with some of the best chefs in the world. Who wouldn’t take that opportunity?”
After spending eight months there Chef Jason next move was to the two rosette Millennium hotel as a senior sous chef.
“I wasn’t comfortable there as I was not able to do the food I wanted. My heart wasn’t been seen in the food.”
But all was not lost as after four months the chef at   Connaught called him back for his old job.
“He asked me to come back and join the team because he could use my skill sets again. I have been back for the last year and three months.”
Self taught and on the job training has given Chef Jason confidence that he now has more responsibilities and in every job there are ups and down.
“Depending on people just to show up for work sometimes it really a pain or suppliers to bring the right products and quality. On the other hand I love to see people enjoying their food and the plates coming back in clean.”
Chef Jason days varies: one start at noon till 11p.m. or 8 a.m. till 11 p.m. He makes sure all the food going out to dinners are up to the Connaughts standards and making sure the ordering is done and that the team is up to speed on all the events of the day.
Chef Jason says he doesn’t have a specialty dish as he just “loves to cook and I can cook anything and make it taste wonderful and give it my own feel and look and that’s the clean and refined look.”
He got rave reviews for his recent gastronomic feat and has two more events planned based on the responses.
“Denise wrote: Attended this event with my mother, a Caribbean woman with a great set of taste buds and who can be hard to please. With each course we were both curious and excited to try and always pleased with the balance of taste and flavour. The Jerk Chicken was a special surprise and not the same as the run of the mill Jerk that we have had. The spice was hidden in the middle of the chicken and was delicious. The dessert was amazing from the presentation to the taste. A great evening, great venue and fantastic food. Jason Howard is one to watch and I look forward to sampling his food again soon!
“Julia”: Being of Caribbean background  I was completely blown away by the offerings of the evening. He has masterfully rearranged the flavours of home, and put such creativity into his work that he left us awe struck and wailing for more. I mean, Sorrel Sorbet…inside out Jerk Chicken…need I say more? Absolute Genius.
“Lia”: every course was orgasmic!! Thoroughly enjoyed the food, the ambience and the whole experience. Excellent night! Well done to Jason and his team for the incredible food they prepared and served.
Every chef is asked what is his one go-to ingredient. Chef Jason’s surprised answer is time: “Yes, time and not the herb. When you take time to do your food it shows and then you taste the love.”