Chef Robert Simpson began his cooking career in Kingston, Jamaica. From as early as he can remember he was in the kitchen at his mother’s side soaking up the sights and smells of his Caribbean kitchen.
His passion for cooking led him to Antwerp, Belgium early in his career and then back to his homeland where he worked at several notable Caribbean resorts including Sandals and Supper clubs. He received his formal culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
“Cooking is my life.”
– Chef Robert Simpson
Chef Robert served as Captain and Mentor, as well as Manager of the Jamaican Culinary team on different occasions.
The American part of his culinary journey took him to Chicago, Illinois where he worked at David Burke’s Park Avenue Cafe. He went on to serve as the banquet chef of the Drake Hotel for three years. Chef Robert also served as the executive chef of the exquisite Swiss Hotel, Chicago.
In June 2002, Chef ventured West and became the opening executive chef of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Burlingame, California. His love affair with the Golden state had begun.
Using the finest and freshest ingredients this star chef from Jamaica presents Caribbean cuisine with distinction and flair at three venues; Menlo Park to Palo Alto to San Jose.
We met at Chef’s colorful and inviting San Jose restaurant for our Foodie Chap chat. The name of the restaurant is “Back A Yard” and it refers to the way his family would enjoy a meal, in the “back A yard”, the garden or the rear of the house. This passionate Chef pours his heart and soul into every dish and the evidence is on the plate, every plate.
He shared his famous and delicious “Jerk chicken” recipe with us. Hear all about that and more in our interview.
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Robert Simpson
1. Cooking to you is about…?
2. It’s midnight, I go to your fridge at home, what will I find?
Some form of cheese, some wine and of course a beer.
3. What’s on the soundtrack to your life; one artist, one song?
Bob Marley “Redemption Song”.
4. In your next life you’re something other than a chef, what might you be?
A Formula One driver.
5. Finally, at your last supper you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Michael Marley, Norval Marley and anything in the fridge!
For jerk marinade:
3 scallions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (3 pounds), halved crosswise
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
Marinate and grill chicken:
Divide chicken pieces and marinade between 2 sealable plastic bags. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, then turn bags over several times to distribute marinade. Put bags of chicken in a shallow pan and marinate, chilled, turning once or twice, 1 day.
Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.
To cook chicken using a charcoal grill:
Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a large chimney of charcoal briquettes (about 100) and pour them evenly over 1 side of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of charcoal).
When charcoal turns grayish white and you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds, sear chicken in batches on lightly oiled rack over coals until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Move chicken as seared to side of grill with no coals underneath, then cook, covered with lid, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes more.
To cook chicken using a gas grill:
Preheat burners on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more.
Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill
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