After a lifetime spent cooking and eating his family’s traditional Jamaican cuisine, Jermaine Walker and his wife, Whitney, finally decided to bring their rigorously tested jerk chicken recipe to the masses.
The couple’s new food truck, JJ’s Jerk Shack, opened last week, initially in the parking lot of Bangor Hair Company at the corner of State and Essex streets in Bangor. For now, JJ’s Jerk Shack will serve jerk chicken and other Jamaican treats just one day a week — Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Though next week, because of the holiday, the truck will be there from 11-4 on Friday, July 6. The couple plans to add an evening shift later this summer.
Jermaine Walker was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was a boy, later attending high school in New Jersey. The traditional dishes from his home country have been passed down through generations of his family.
“He learned from his mother. His mother learned from his grandmother. And on and on and on,” said Whitney Walker, who lives with her husband and their children in Hermon. “All of these recipes have been passed down through the generations. Every event in life comes with a gigantic family meal. It’s a really important part of the culture, and he has a gift for it.”
The Walkers have already started one small business, Three Little Birds Delivered Goods, which, for the past two years, has offered home delivery of grocery store and restaurant orders to customers in the Bangor region.
Starting a food truck or restaurant has long been on their minds, and when a mobile food unit popped up for sale in the Facebook Marketplace, they decided 2018 was the year they’d take the plunge.
“It was in pretty rough shape, but we fixed it up,” Whitney Walker said. “A really good friend of mine owns a hair salon and said we could probably get a spot in her parking lot. It all worked out beautifully.”
The truck is named for both Jermaine and for their son, Jameson — both of whom are nicknamed JJ. The signature item at JJ’s Jerk Shack is, of course, the jerk chicken, featuring Jermaine’s family recipe for jerk seasoning.
“It’s got 18 ingredients in total. My father-in-law grows the Scotch bonnet peppers. It’s better than anything you’ll ever buy at the store,” Whitney Walker said. “Eventually we’d like to sell the seasoning on its own.”
The shack will offer other items on a rotating basis, including jerk pork, curry chicken, a shrimp dish, and brown stew chicken — the latter a rich, flavorful dish of chicken stewed in brown sugar, onions, garlic and lots of spices.
“Cooking is where Jermaine goes to relax,” Whitney Walker said. “It turns his brain off.”
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Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Bangor Hair Company.