A Taste of New Bern: Jamaican chef brings Caribbean flavors to … – New Bern Sun Journal

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Updated: June 5, 2023 @ 2:20 pm
Chef Bethune tops shrimp tacos with his homemade mango salsa.
The chef plates his shrimp tacos with a serving of rice and beans, which is a staple in Caribbean culture.
Shrimp tacos, beef tacos, and chorizo burgers are a few of the many items Chef Bethune has on his Jamaican menu.

Chef Bethune tops shrimp tacos with his homemade mango salsa.
The chef plates his shrimp tacos with a serving of rice and beans, which is a staple in Caribbean culture.
Shrimp tacos, beef tacos, and chorizo burgers are a few of the many items Chef Bethune has on his Jamaican menu.
Chef Kirk Bethune has spent the past 30 years cooking around the world, but moved to New Bern two years ago with his wife, bringing his talents in the kitchen with him.
Bethune began cooking in his homeland, Jamaica. His grandparents, who were both chefs, raised him and taught him much of what he knows about cooking.
He currently works as a chef at Michael’s Pub and Patio and the New Bern Riverfront Double Tree Hotel.
“I like to cook my type of food to serve to people because not everyone can go to Jamaica to get the cuisine,” said Bethune. “So I bring my cuisine to them, and I love it.”
The chef created a separate Jamaican menu that he serves to customers at Michael’s Pub every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Bethune works tirelessly, sometimes totaling 160 hours every two weeks between both jobs, as he works towards his dream of owning his own business.
His ultimate goal is to open his own Jamaican restaurant in New Bern.
“I’m working hard to try to get myself started, even with a food truck until I can upgrade myself to a restaurant, but you have to start somewhere,” he said.
The chef has received a lot of positive feedback from customers on his authentic Jamaican cuisine.
He only uses natural, freshly grown seasonings in his dishes. Every Jamaican meal crafted by Bethune includes the mother spice of Jamaica, pimento. Also known as allspice, the seasoning is essential in Caribbean cooking.
“If you don’t have pimento in your food, it is not authentic,” said Bethune. “Pimento gives you that memory of Jamaica.”
His Jamaican menu at Michael’s Pub includes authentic dishes like jerk barbecue ribs, jerk chicken, ox tail, chorizo burgers, and more.
A majority of the chefs meals are seasoned with his freshly made mango salsa and ‘Kirk the Jerk’ sauce.
“When I was in Maine people came for jerk lobster and from there I started making my own jerk sauce, labeled Kirk the Jerk,” he said. “So, from there I saw that people were gravitating towards Jamaican spices.”
When Bethune first started working in America he would travel back and forth between Jamaica and Maine to cook at Blaze Bar Harbor.
He worked there for nine years, but fell in love with New Bern during a vacation with his wife. Now, they are on the hunt for a house to settle down within the New Bern area.
“New Bern chose us,” said Bethune. “We had to move here to live because it’s so beautiful and the water is close by and the town is easy to get around.”
Growing up in Jamaica, Bethune did not imagine he would ever move to America, let alone work as a chef in the states.
Until his move to Maine in 2012, Bethune mostly worked as a chef in Jamaica, but also had the opportunity to travel to places like Dubai and Cancun to cook.
He had the chance to cook for some celebrities like Janet Jackson and Steve Harvey, which ultimately pushed him to bring his cooking talents to America.
“Steve Harvey was the one who motivated me to come to America,” Bethune said. “He told me the quality of food I serve in Jamaica belongs in America.”
Now, Bethune is proud to showcase his skills for residents and visitors of New Bern.
“It’s nice here, the people are genuine and they accept me because of my authentic food so I really like it here,” he said.
Although he loves the city, Bethune admits that the move to America is challenging in some ways.
The popularity of fast food is something that he was not used to when he first moved to the states. He also found that Americans don’t always enjoy foreign spices because of their distinct flavors.
Chef Bethune works hard in the kitchen to create delicious meals, and makes the effort to ensure his customers are satisfied with their food.
“I try to interact with all of my customers no matter how busy I am,” he said. “I have to go out there and acknowledge my customers because they feel really good when the chef comes out and asks if everything is great.”
For Bethune, cooking is about keeping guests happy. As the chef makes his rounds in the dining room he looks for unhappy faces so he can fix any problems that arise.
“You don’t want to lose a customer or guest,” he said.
Chef Bethune has only just begun his culinary journey in New Bern, but he has high hopes for his future in town.
“I came to Michael’s Pub and I’m starting here to make myself recognized,” he said. “I hope that when I go off, people will know me and I’ll have support.”

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