Pass the chowder and curry: Jamaican chefs are making Cape Cod food even better.
With the help of Jamaican seasonal workers, Cape Cod now has a taste that goes beyond the well-known Yankee favorites. There are now golden patties, jerk-rubbed meats, and curries with a lot of turmeric.
When people walk into the Jerk Cafe, which is in a strip mall in the Massachusetts village of South Yarmouth on Cape Cod, they smell sweet smoke. Glenroy Burke, the owner of the cafe, moves around the wide-open kitchen, stirring pots, taking care of the grill, and plating dishes. Mr. Burke, who is also known as “Chef Shrimpy,” said, “I don’t like to be hidden in the kitchen.”
Jamaican cooks and chefs have been coming to Cape Cod through the H-2B visa program for more than 30 years. This program helps foreign workers find temporary non-farming jobs. A small number of seasonal workers have moved to the area for good or become citizens. This summer, Jamaicans are once again working in the kitchens of traditional Cape seafood restaurants, fine dining spots, resorts, and inns. This is because international travel is back up and the domestic job market is still strong.
And with their ingredients and ways of cooking, Jamaicans are leaving their mark on the region’s food culture. They are opening their own restaurants and adding new dishes to the menus of restaurants from Hyannis to Provincetown. Long ago, the taste of Cape Cod was defined by the seafood dishes that Yankees liked to eat. Now, it also includes flaky, golden patties, bright jerk-rubbed meats, and curries with a lot of turmeric and allspice.