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Spice It Up With Authentic Jamaican Cuisine At Island’s Food Festivals

May 3, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Jamaica is a food-lover’s paradise and offers several unique festivals that introduce visitors to the island’s celebrated cuisine in an authentic way. Known for jerk cooking, Jamaica’s roadside stands feature some of the best jerk on the island.

They also offer a range of specialty dishes such as ackee and saltfish (the island’s national dish), bammy (a flat, toasted wafer eaten with fried fish), mackerel rundown (pickled mackerel with a thick, custard-like sauce made of coconut milk) and gizzada or “pinch-me-round” (a sweet Jamaican pastry).

“Our motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’, and the influences in our food reflect this with various ingredients that are combined to make dishes distinctively Jamaican,” said Jamaica’s Director of Tourism, John Lynch. “Our yearly calendar is filled with many events that feature our diverse culture, including our foods. These include several jerk festivals, food carnivals and a restaurant week. These events honor the legacy of Jamaica through flavors and demonstrate the culinary creativity of Jamaicans in transforming everyday produce into world-class meals. We take pride in preserving our culture and our cuisine is one of the best ways for visitors to sample the island’s history.”

Jamaican cuisine is prepared around the world, but for an authentic taste, travelers can experience it firsthandby visiting the island’s various food festivals or by following the jerk trail. 

Jamaica’s Jerk Trail

Jerk cooking originated in the mountains of Jamaica when freed slaves needed to preserve the meat they hunted, coating it with a special seasoning combining pimento berries, thyme, brown sugar, lime juice, and Jamaica’s spicy scotch bonnet pepper. Today, visitors can experience the cooking style on Jamaica’s Jerk Trail, an island-wide culinary tour of registered jerk restaurants and roadside food stalls. The trail stretches across the island from Negril in the west to Port Antonio in the east with 22 spicy stops along the route. Participants can taste-test the three Scotchie’s restaurants on the trail, as well as excellent eateries such as Bourbon Beach in Negril, Ultimate Jerk in Discovery Bay, Supreme Jerk Centre in Green Island, Lyming in Walker’s Wood,and Blueberry Hill near Port Antonio. For a list of participating restaurants,

The following is a list of 2014 events highlighting Jamaica’s culinary offerings:

  • Jamaica Epicurean Escape (May 23 – 25): This food festival showcases mouthwatering cuisine, Jamaican and international celebrity chefs, fine wines and exciting
  • All Jamaica Grill Off (July 6): The annual All Jamaica Grill Off competition takes place in Kingston. A much-anticipated food festival, the All Jamaica Grill Off attracts the destination’s best recreational and professional grilling chefs. This event is a must-do for foodies to enjoy an unlimited sampling from competitors’ booths along with all-day music and stage entertainment.
  • Little Ochie Seafood Carnival (July 11 – 13): The Little Ochie Seafood Carnival is a celebration of the wide array of culinary delights available on the south side of the island. Little Ochie is nestled on the rugged beachfront of a quaint South Coast fishing village called Alligator Pond in Manchester. Top local reggae musicians and vintage artists are featured along with the cuisine and a non-stop party.
  • Portland Jerk Festival (July): Portland is the home of jerk, and its Portland Jerk Festival includes all things jerk. Participants are treated to a feast of jerked lobster, fish, chicken and pork. Activities include performances from local artists and community dance groups, arts and craft displays, a merry-go-round and face painting.
  • Bath Food Festival (August 6): The Bath Food Festival provides an introduction to the Bath Botanical Garden, which is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can experience the therapeutic value and healing properties of the St. Thomas Bath & Spa as well as a taste of the region’s cuisine and culture.
  • International Reggae Wine Festival (August 10): This event will be staged in Rose Hall, Montego Bay and feature wine purveyors from around the world, some of the best reggae artists, a fashion show and arts and crafts.
  • Ocho Rios Seafood Festival (August): The Ocho Rios Seafood Festival is one of the main culinary shows in the country. The event includes some of Jamaica’s leading seafood chefs displaying their culinary skills. In addition, there is top entertainment throughout the day, culminating with a concert in the evening.
  • Port Morant Banana Festival (October 20): Port Morant hosts the Banana Festival that displays community members’ creativity in food preparation skills through the versatile use of bananas. In addition to showcasing the creativity of its members, the event is also one method of preserving the history of Port Morant, as the first shipment of bananas from Jamaica was exported from the Old Morant Wharf near the Port Morant community in St. Thomas.
  • Oktoberfest (October): Oktoberfest is an annual German festival put on by the Jamaican German Society. The festival will feature specialty German food and beer, as well as German wines.
  • Jamaica Restaurant Week (November): Jamaica Restaurant Week is a week-long event celebrating culinary offerings in Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. It is a unique opportunity for visitors and locals alike to experience a taste of Jamaica for less. Diverse culinary offerings are set at reduced prices of up to 50 percent.
  • CB Pan Chicken Championship (November): The CB Pan Chicken Championship provides Jamaicans an opportunity to show off their culinary talents by creating mouthwatering jerk recipes using a jerk pan. The elimination rounds are held across the island, with the championship in Kingston.  The event is for the family with rides and other entertainment.

For more information on events in Jamaica or to book a vacation, go to or speak to your local travel specialist.

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