Food encourages togetherness, breaks down barriers, and having someone cook for you is a privilege — a deliberate act of kindness and generosity.
I’ve travelled all over the world, been fortunate to eat at the most incredible restaurants, but going into someone’s home, and watching as they prepare a meal, and then eating that home made meal, is both humbling and beautiful.
As the 19th century French journalist, Charles Pierre Monselet, said, “Gastronomy has been the joy of all peoples through the ages. It produces beauty and wit and goes hand in hand with goodness of heart and a consideration of others.”
Recently, on Super Bowl Sunday, I had the pleasure of meeting Akil Boothe, AKA Chef Kellz, at a mutual friend’s gathering. It was a great moment, a very positive happening. Chef entered the room, a big beautiful smile on his face, and introduced himself with grace, love and light. He lit up the room, supercharging the atmosphere, making everyone present feel good. Some people possess such magic, that unmistakeable natural charisma, and Chef Kellz is such a man.
And as well as serving up great energy, he says he can taste it too. “Energy doesn’t lie,” he told me. “We all give off a certain energy, we all have energy around us, everything is energy. I just read off people’s energy, how they maneuver in life. You could tell me a story right now, and I can tell whether it’s genuine or not.”
Hailing from Far Rockaway, New York, a small town on the south side of Queens, as a first generation immigrant, Kellz has his own catering company, ‘KellzKitchen’ and has cooked for high-profile clients including Grammy Award winning musician Shaggy and members of the the Los Angeles Lakers. His work is deeply imbedded in the culture of his Jamaican roots. He prides himself on the flawless execution of the cuisines of his lineage, as food was always, and to this day remains, a staple of his family which represents love, good times and togetherness.
“I started cooking on my own at 10 years old,” he explains. “My mother was my greatest teacher and biggest critic. She told me the truth, but was always encouraging and believed in my dreams.
“My grandmother was the first person to give me a cookbook that I still have to this day. And my Dad played a pivotal role in my culinary journey. He’s a Rasta who stopped eating meat in 1998, so that gave me an edge cooking vegan meals for him, and expanding my palate.”
Now Kellz has combined his passion for cooking with the love of his and other cultures from around the world, to create a fusion culinary experience that takes you on an international journey. He has plans to open a brick and mortar restaurant, and dreams of cooking for the Obamas. His intention is to have his clients fully immersed in his dining experience — for him, it’s not just food, it’s a lifestyle.
“I don’t measure my ingredients, I just feel it and cook from the heart,” Chef says, sharing the sage culinary guidance that came from his mom.
I was so struck by my meeting with Kellz, I wanted to share his story and his favorite recipes with our Mr Feelgood community. Check them out below and enjoy!
Grandma’s Fried Bake
This is the first thing my grandmother taught me how to cook while she was living with us.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder aluminum free
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter room temperature, optional
Warm water about 3/4 cup
2 cups vegetable oil for frying bake
In a large bowl, add flour, salt, and baking powder. Rub in butter (if using). Mix well.
While gradually adding water, knead to make a very soft, smooth dough, about 3 minutes–not too long. Do not fold over and please try to use ALL the water called for in the recipe. It’s better to have a sticky dough that you can add a pinch of flour to, rather than a stiff, dry dough.
Form into a large ball(or two) and cover with a wet paper towel. Let it rest for about 15-30 minutes. You can refrigerate for several hours or overnight. This helps to create a fluffier result.
Divide dough into small “golf” balls. On a lightly-floured surface flatten (1/4 inch) using hands or rolling pin. If you roll it out too thin, your bakes will be stiff and hard.
Pour oil into a frying pan on medium heat.
Working in batches, fry the dough disks, turning once, until golden brown and puffed, about 30 seconds per side. Continuously pour oil on bakes to help it to rise. Always flip bakes as soon as it puffs up and has a golden color. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bakes to a paper towel-lined plate. Overcooking will also make the bakes stiff.
Mrs B Ackee & Saltfish
Every Sunday morning the house will be filled with this signature smell of our Jamaica’s national dish. It’s like home away from home, and that feeling of peace, love and light.
2 Canned Ackee
1 lb Saltfish
1 Onions Sliced
3 Whole pimento seeds
1 Stalk scallions Chopped
2 Sprig thyme
¼ Scotch bonnet pepper Seeds removed
½ tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 tbsp Cooking oil
Soak the saltfish for a minimum of two hours in cold water.
Pour way the water.
In a saucepan, place the saltfish and cover with fresh water. Put to boil on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Removed from heat and pour away the hot water. Wash the fish in cold water to cool it.
Remove the fish skin and debone the saltfish. Flake the saltfish and set aside.
On medium fire, heat the oil in a cooking skillet. Add the onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, pimento (aka allspice)scallions and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add the flaked saltfish and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the ackee, lower the heat and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes
Add the black pepper, turn the heat off and serve
Mama’s Bully Beef
This brings back memories of snacks and road trips when I used to eat beef. I can still remember the smell and taste..
1 medium onion (large dice)
1 plum tomato (large dice)
½ of a scotch bonnet pepper (minced)
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ketchup
2 Garlic cloves (minced)
2 stalks of scallions
1 spring of Thyme
1 can of corned beef
Use the can’s key or a can opener to open the can. Remove the beef from the can with a fork or spoon. Place on a plate and set aside.
In a hot skillet, add oil and keep temperature on medium to high heat.
Add onions and allow them to cook until translucent.
Add thyme, tomatoes, garlic, scallions and hot peppers and combine well.
Once the peppers are fragrant, add beef to the skillet and break it apart with a spoon.
Everyone has a preference for how much they want the beef broken apart. Some people prefer to leave some small chunks in. Break it apart as much as you like.
Add in black pepper, cayenne pepper and ketchup and give the pan a good stir to make sure all the ingredients are combined
Once completely warmed through, the beef will no longer be solid. It is ready when no longer solid. Serve with rice or your choice of sides. (Bread, dumplings, plantains, etc)
Pops Escovitch Red Snapper
4 Medium sized Fresh Red Snapper, Scaled and gutted.
12 Scotch bonnet peppers
12 pimento seeds (aka allspice)
1 Large white onion, thickly sliced
1 Green bell pepper, cut lengthwise ½ inch wide
1 Red bell pepper, cut lengthwise ½ inch wide
1 Carrot, grated
½ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp Sea Salt
2tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Onion powder
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 spring of Thyme
1 tsp Ginger powder
½ tsp Cumin powder
Vegetable oil for frying
Rinse and clean fish with juice from the lemon. Pat dry. Cut 3 diagonal lines across the sides of each fish.
Mix spices sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, and cumin in a small bowl.
Season the outside and inside cavity of the fish with the spice mix.
Fill a large frying pan with oil, about ½ inch deep, to high heat.
Season the oil by adding 6-8 pimento seeds and ½ of the scotch bonnet pepper (or a whole pepper for a more intense heat) into the oil. The scotch bonnet pepper will eventually turn black as it cooks. That’s ok!
Place fish in the frying pan away from you. Adjust the heat between medium and high to avoid the fish being burned.
Fry for 5-6 minutes on each side. The fish should be slightly brown to blackened.
Remove fish from frying pan and allow to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Allow the oil to cool and strain, reserving ½ cup of oil. Discard remaining oil.
In a large saucepan, warm reserved oil to medium heat. Add fresh oil if needed.
Add onions, remaining allspice seeds, red pepper, green pepper, carrot, thyme and remaining scotch bonnet pepper to lightly saute.
Saute for about 5 minutes, you want the vegetables to keep their body and crunch.
Add the rice vinegar, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Place onions and pepper sauce over the fish.
Serve with festival, Hard Dough bread or Jamaican Rice and Peas.
Slamming Grilled Jerk Salmon
I actually got tired of eating jerk chicken so I decided to try salmon and it was a great success.
Walkerswood jerk seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Marinate salmon fillet for an hour or so with Walkerswood jerk seasoning. (My favorite if I ran out of my homemade jerk seasoning).
Rub with with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
On a grill on low-medium heat.
Place salmon filet skin side down grill it for 5-7 minutes cooking it 90% of the way.
Turn filet and grill for an additional minute or 2.
Serve with a lemon wedge.