Jamaica born New Yorker Javon Pink finds melody and harmony with cooking
We’ve heard the tale of food being seen as medicine. But for Jamaican New Yorker Javon Pink, food was the company, therapy, and remedy, all seasoned marinated, and cooked up in a one-pot meal.
Today, he goes by the moniker Cooking With Jeff, and takes great pleasure in preparing authentic Jamaican dishes and sharing them on social media. His menu offerings range from curried shrimp and callaloo rice, ackee and salt fish cups and peanut porridge to sausage and pepper rigatoni pasta, honey barbecued wings, Rasta pasta with spinach, grilled lobster and stewed fish, just to name a few. “My go-to dishes are mainly chicken and fish, with sides like rice and vegetables. But I love Rasta pasta,” he told Food.
Growing up in Jamaica meant being surrounded by rich flavour. “I was born and raised in Kingston, to be specific. I also lived in Junction, St Elizabeth, for a year. I loved it there, too. Jamaican food is the best in the world, so I’m always connected. I can’t give away my roots for anything,” he revealed.
While his mother also knew her way around the kitchen, it was his grandmother who did most of the cooking, and that was where he discovered his love for a wholesome meal.
As he grew older, he began helping himself to savoury and sweet delights. “Because my mother used to work a lot of overtime, I started out cooking small dishes, like baked beans and rice, and maybe sausage. Gradually, I started getting better at it.” By the age of 10, he was cooking like grown folks. Even his mother’s co-worker was impressed by his skill at such a tender age. “I learned about herbs, spices, and flavour. I am an only child, so I had to help myself. And my mother would come home to a freshly prepared meal,” added Pink.
He not only cooked for his mother, but the budding chef also made meals for other family members and friends. As he got better, others would entrust him with the duty of cooking for them. And he received sheer happiness from feeding others and seeing them satisfied after a meal
Reserved by nature, he was sparked by a flame to display vibrant and bold culinary passion and expression. “I love cooking dishes that would last more than one sitting,” he highlighted, adding that economically it made sense. From a practical standpoint, cooking at home was healthier than eating out, because he was able to control who was cooking and the cleanliness of the environment the food was being prepared in.
“When I cooked for family and friends, they loved it. They would encourage me to take it more seriously and pursue it as a possible career. So one day, I made an Instagram page to showcase some of what I do and I am good at,” he shared. Pink dedicated his handle to the pet name he received while living in Jamaica, Jeff.
Now based in the Big Apple, the self-taught chef teases palates, reconnecting to roots with his renditions of local favourites. “As a chef, I enjoy being able to freely be artistic and creative and satisfying one’s taste buds. My cooking style is colourful, appealing to the eyes, and flavourful,” he said.
Since making his page official in September 2020, he has become more consistent in 2021, receiving positive feedback from his viewers and followers for producing good content. In December 2021, he had his first-ever cake sale and the response was amazing, “Customers loved it,” he remarked.
Juggling multiple activities day-to-day is far from easy, and time management has been one of the biggest hurdles Pink has had to jump. But he gives himself grace, doing what he can when he can. Preparation, he says, is key, and having the right tools will get you the right results,
“My hope is to one day own a sports bar and restaurant, or lounge, and a take-out restaurant in the near future.”
So what’s his advice to aspiring chefs? “Write down your goals, so that they will appear in real life. Be authentic and creative in a way that you can set your trend with your own style, and, most importantly, believe in yourself and plan out your objectives.”