SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — When Andrew Ashmeade was in the fourth grade, a chef from Boston in Portland, Jamaica, visited his tiny town of Christiana to demonstrate the famous jerk recipe.
"Boston, Portland is the first place jerk was ever made and sold," Ashmeade said. "I watched him make it and said, 'One day I'm going to do that.' I then became the only person in my household who could make it."
In 1986, at the age of 17, the Jamaica native moved to Tampa to attend University of South Florida.
Five years later, inspired by memories of growing up in a household where the kitchen was the most important room, one he would spend hours in practicing family recipes and the Boston jerk marinade, he opened Jerk Hut.
"It all started with a tiny place, in the kitchen of the Brass Mug, a little rock 'n' roll bar that was on Fletcher Avenue," Ashmeade said.
In October, he will celebrate the opening of the fourth location in Seminole Heights, near the Taco Bus.
Though the recipe he learned in fourth grade remains the same, the concept is different.
"It will be a drive-up, it's what you have on the islands," Ashmeade said. "You'll walk up to the window and then it's all outdoor seating. It's a true Jamaican drive-up."
The menu will be more seafood-centric, with foil roasted whole snapper, fried fish and escovitch fish.
"We'll have juices we make from scratch like a brand new pineapple ginger," Ashmeade said. "There's also one made from the hibiscus plant and fresh ginger. The sorrel drink, it's mostly served at Christmas time."
Coconut water will be tapped from green coconuts onsite.
Customers can watch as their seafood is grilled and their corn is roasted.
"It showcases what we call normal at home. How we actually live. It's the real deal," Ashmeade said.
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Over the years the Jerk Hut has grown in popularity and so too have Ashmeade and his wife Terri. N-Touch News, an African-American owned newspaper, named the Ashmeades its 2016 Power Couple of the Year at its Power Couples Ball last year.
Terri Ashmeade, is a doctor who maintains a clinical practice in neonatology and also is affiliate with Tampa General Hospital, where she has served as medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit and chief of pediatrics.
This year's Power Couples Ball will be held on Sept. 23 at the Grand Hyatt. For more information, visit n-touchnews.com/power-couples-ball.
Contact Arielle Waldman at [email protected]