Elite Spotlight : Christopher Bhoorasingh (@Islandboyjerkstop)
Backyard pitmaster Christopher Bhoorasingh has made an art of combining Jamaican jerk and Texas brisket. Born in Jamaica, he traveled the world with the military before landing in Texas where his addiction to BBQ took off. He sat down with Dalstrong to talk about keeping life simple, his hack for perfect bark, and what it means to be an island boy.
What’s your background and the story behind your Instagram name, @islandboyjerkstop?
I was born in Jamaica and moved to America when I was young. I am an island boy, that’s how the name came about. Because of the military, I’ve moved all over the world and learned about food from all cultures: Asian, Italian, French.
Then I was stationed in Texas and learned all about BBQ. I’ve given nineteen years now of total service. Started in air traffic in the Navy, now I’m a maintenance scheduler for F-16s for the Air Force. I came to the Air Force because I never want to leave Texas.
Jamaica’s main dish is jerk chicken and Texas specializes in brisket, they do it better than anyone. I just combined the two things I love.
What’s your go-to BBQ recipe?
Everything I cook I love, but certain things I don’t have to think about as much. For BBQ, I imagine what I want it to taste like, but jerk stands out. (Also curry chicken.) The signature of a jerk dish is the rub.
Back in the day with slaves in Jamaica, they would cook the meat over pimento wood, and as they cooked it, they would poke the meat with a stick and use them like tongs. That’s where “jerk” came from, the motion of the stick. Americans know it as allspice. Pimento berries are ground to be allspice. It evolvesd into the rub or the marinade, which gives you the same flavor.
Do you have a favorite shortcut, tip, or hack?
First, don’t open the grill often. To get the awesome color, my secret is spraying with apple juice or cider. The heated, melted sugar gives it a nice crystally glaze and gorgeous bark. Inside stays juicy, outside gets crispy. A spray bottle helps. It makes it easier.
When you’re not cooking, what are you doing?
My life is fairly simple. I travel all over the world for work. Outside of that, I spend a lot of time with my wife, mostly cooking. I have five smokers, three grills, a sous vide bath, griddles — that’s what I do. We stay at home a lot. Cooking is my therapy. My doctor actually prescribed it. It’s the best recreation for me. It keeps me calm. I’m never angry when I cook.
Is there a spice or ingredient you secretly hate?
Seasoning salt. I refuse to use it. It’s fake. I can get that salty flavor through other things. I don’t even own it.
What are the kitchen tool(s) you can’t live without?
I cannot live without my Omega series. It stays on my island. It’s just beautiful, a conversation piece. The wooden stand that it sits on gives you that feeling of “hey, he’s a real chef.” I don’t think you understand just how many Dalstrong knives I have.
One of my favorites is the Omega series 8.5” Kiritsuke Chef Knife. And I really love my Orbit Razor Pizza Wheel. I make pizza every Friday, and I use it every time. It’s amazing. I have a Pit Boss pro series, and that’s my go-to grill. I make and smoke everything in it — I smoke jerk chicken, smoke cheese, and cook pizza. I owned the grills before I became an ambassador. I use it every day.
Do you have any cooking heroes?
Growing up in Jamaica, I was well off. We never cooked, we had maids. But on the weekends, they went home. So then my grandma cooked and we had to help, and we hated it. I despised cooking. But when coming to America, it was recommended to me for therapy to help with the stress of military service.
It brought me so much pleasure to make food for people, and to see them go back for seconds. People can say they like your food, but when they go back for seconds they really did like it. So my grandma was my first influence. Professionally, I admire Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto. He can do anything with any ingredients. He could take eel and make ice cream.
If you could cook a meal for one person, who would it be?
This isn’t political at all, but I would have to say George W. Bush because he made me an American citizen. I’ll never forget that moment. You don’t get to tell the president “thank you.” I would cook him a chicken piccata my way.
What is the one dish that everyone seems to screw up?
I can think of two dishes. People over or undercook both lobster and lamb. If the lamb isn’t pink you overcooked it. If the lobster starts to bend or turn in a circle, you overcooked it. It should be flat.
What is the mark of a great chef?
Accepting constructive criticism. Not everyone will like it, but there’s always room to improve. You always have to cook for your guests. I like spicy — very spicy — but not everyone does. Not everyone will enjoy how I cook things.
Do you have any advice for chefs just starting out or home cooks who want to up their game?
A lot of people who are just starting out, I would ask you, “If you would still cook with nobody following you, would you still do it?” You have to have passion. You can’t cook for popularity. You have to bring something to the community. So do that, and just keep going. Everything that you want will come in the future.
What would your last meal be?
Curry goat and roti with passionfruit juice, freshly squeezed.
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Written by Abby Slate
Born and raised in the South, Abby lives by three things: bacon goes in everything, all food can (and should) be deep fried, and hush puppies are religion.