Build your plate: What Kelly orders from Kelly's Authentic Jamaican … – Red and Black

Chef Kelbourne “Kelly” Codling serves food for patrons at his restaurant Kelly’s Authentic Jamaican Food, located in Five Points for almost 25 years now. (Photo/Jayden Henson)
Assistant Eat&Drink Editor
Chef Kelbourne “Kelly” Codling serves food for patrons at his restaurant Kelly’s Authentic Jamaican Food, located in Five Points for almost 25 years now. (Photo/Jayden Henson)
Chef Kelbourne “Kelly” Codling has served authentic Jamaican food for almost  25 years at his restaurant Kelly’s Authentic Jamaican Food, located in Five Points. Born in Rock Spring, Jamaica, he has been cooking traditional Jamaican dishes since he was five years old, according to the website. Given Codling’s background with Jamaican cuisine, it is no surprise that Kelly’s has become a staple in the Athens food scene. The Red & Black sat down with Codling to discuss his restaurant, its past and what his ideal plate looks like from Kelly’s.
All of Kelly’s entrees are served with meat, two sides, tea and cornbread. For the meat selection, Codling said he orders “half and half:” half jerk chicken and half curry chicken. 
Both meat selections are spicy and flavorful, which Codling explained is from how they are prepared. 
“I use a lot of scotch bonnet pepper for the jerk chicken… It’s like habanero but it’s a little bit hotter… it has a lot bit more spice to it…I mean, I’m from Jamaica, so you know, we do a lot of spicy stuff in Jamaica,” he said. 
Another key part of the meats’ preparation is the grilling process. Codling said the firewood he uses to grill with is oak, hickory and/or pecan. He said this adds a lot to the flavor in combination with the spices. 
“The major thing is the scotch bonnet pepper, and of course a lot of love, you know what I’m saying,” Codling said with a laugh. 
For his sides, Codling is mainly going with greens. His top picks include spicy cabbage; spicy squash; rice and peas; and collard greens.  His favorite, he said, is probably the spicy cabbage. 
“They [customers] cannot get cabbage like this anywhere… If they come here and I don’t have spicy cabbage and mac and cheese, they leave… The cabbage and mac and cheese are a big, big hit. They love it,” he said. 
Codling doesn’t add any meat to the vegetables because he said he looks out for vegetarians. Additionally, he said he doesn’t eat pork. 
“And of course, cornbread and tea,” Codling said as he concluded the description of his go-to plate. 
Codling shared that the cornbread is made with Jiffy because it’s hard to supply such a voluminous amount from scratch. However, an important step in its preparation is giving it time to sit so the cornmeal can expand, rather than baking it right away. 
“The longer it stays, the better it is,” he said. 
All of the items on Codling’s plate are foods he would have frequently in Jamaica, in addition to oxtail, curry goat and other forms of chicken. 
Codling said all of the menu items don’t take very long to cook, and his method is all about never measuring. 
“I learned from my grandmother… She taught me a lot of her techniques. She always cooks and never measures,” he said. “A person who cooks and never measures is a good cook… that person has taste buds for everybody.” 
1583 S Lumpkin St., Athens, GA 30605 
Tuesday-Friday open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. & Saturday-Sunday from noon to 8:30 p.m.
Closed on Mondays
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Kelly’s Authentic Jamaican Food brings Caribbean cooking to Athens. All entrees are served with meat, two sides, tea and cornbread.
Assistant Eat&Drink Editor
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