WINNIE’S JAMAICAN – JAMIE THOMAS
BY KIAN WEST
Have you noticed Newcastle has its first Jamaican Restaurant? Finally, multiculturalism has a new flavour and it is inside finnegan's Hotel at Winnie's Jamaican! We caught up with head chef Jamie Thomas to find out more.
Jamie, tell me a little bit about yourself.
I'm originally from North London. I've been a chef for the last 27 years, but have been in Australia for the last 10 years. My last role was as exec chef for Drinkndine in Sydney, but I moved up here late last year with my wife and kids for a (slightly) quieter life.
Have you always had a passion for food?
I've always loved food from a very early age. My nan had a string of good old-fashioned fish and chip shops that I helped out in on the school holidays, so I've been around the food business for as long as I can remember.
What’s the deal with Jamaican food? Have you been to Jamaica?
I've been to Jamaica as a young lad on holidays. The Jamaican scene in London is huge. Curry goat and jerk chicken were staples in my life from the age of seven onwards; my two best friends growing up were both Jamaican, and I always went round their house after school to eat. Most of the time I had to eat two dinners, as I dared not tell my mum that I'd snuck in a curry goat before my dinner! Winnie’s is named after their mum, who was a big influence on me and my food.
And is Winnie’s Jamaican a recreation of Jamaican foods or an adaptation?
Some dishes – curry goat, jerk chicken – are how they should be and how I've been taught to make them by Jamaicans. A lot of the other parts of the menu are me playing with flavours and adapting today's eating styles to my menu. Jeff fried chicken, for example, is using the flavours of Jamaica but the technique of the Deep South of the States.
Do you have a favourite dish on the menu?
Seems like I'm saying the phrase ‘jerk chicken’ a lot here, but yeah, definitely a staple in my life. I would be eating it weekly, whether I had a Jamaican restaurant or not. The jerk corn is another favourite, though.
Who should come to Winnie’s?
I want Winnie’s to be for everyone. It's great for a party of ten but equally for a romantic dinner for two. We have options for meatheads and lots for veggies/vegans.
Anything else Novocastrians should know?
I'm always going to be here – don't be afraid to come up to the pass and ask questions. I love what I do and I’m always happy for a chat. Also, the playlist for the restaurant was put together by my old mate Jamie Doom from the Bang Gang DJs (everyone is already asking about the music!).
Newcastle's first Jamaican restaurant. Loads of Vege/Vegan options, REAL Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat and lots more. Open at Finnegan's Hotel Tuesday - Friday lunch & dinner and Saturday dinner.