The Gurley Aston jerk centre in Boston, Portland, Jamaica is the realization of the vision of Rhone Bennet. Rhone Bennet is a descendant of Aston and Gurley Stewart, and born in Boston. Gurley and Aston were the cooks for the groups of farmers who would work on each others land in turn. They cooked the lunch for these men, including jerk. They were known as good cooks from this vocation since the 1930's.
Rhone built the Gurley Aston jerk centre in 2012, in honor of his grandparents to continue their name and brand of jerk cooking in Boston. Gurley Aston as a known family who were jerking from 30's is an authentic branch of the Boston style of jerk that came out of the mountains from the Maroons. It includes recipes for pork, chicken, lobster, and roast fish. Gurely Aston is also known for its fried crushed green plaintain. Other sides they serve include festival, bammy, sweet potatoe, rice and peas. You will also find conch soup and steamed conch on the menu. Rhone has been jerking for over 20 years, and learned it from his grandfather Aston Stewart, who was well known in the community as one of the original jerkmen, as well as being a fisherman.
Aston taught the trade to one of his sons, Supa, and to Rhone, who continued his development with Supa at his jerk shop. Supa and his cousin Barry, ran a jerk shop at the site of the first jerk centre in the late 70's. A special dish that Gurley Aston will be serving starting this year is a dried grilled shark recipe that he learned from his grandfather, Aston Stewart. Rhone is hoping to brig a new delight to not only Jamaica, but the world by sharing this unique recipe.
Gurley Aston employs seven full time workers, and four part time workers. The head jerkman at Gurley Aston is Breezy with Laughy as his second. Breezy has been jerking for over 30 years, and learned jerk with Uton Burke the founder of Mickey Jr's Jerk Centre. Their master chef is Kamar. Behind the bar is mixologist Tica. The general manager for Gurley Aston is Watica Thompson, pictured above, who is also life partners with Rhone. She runs the day to day operations of Gurley Aston. Gurely Aston has service that is second to none, and has many regulars for whom they are the favored Boston Jerk. Rhone is proud to continue the name and reputation of the Gurley Aston brand of Boston Jerk cooking.
Glasses is an electrician by trade, although he has been
working at the jerk pits for forty years. He started by simply collecting money
at Mickey Jr.'s Jerk Centre under Uton Burke. One day Uton cut his finger,
and could no longer sell. Glasses volunteered to take over selling and did
so exceptionally in that
position that he stayed in it. He went onto learn the whole business. After Uton passed, (verify that,) having worked at Mickey Jr's Jerk Centre for 10 years, Glasses built his own jerk pit down the street, Glasses Jerk Centre, which he has been running for 30 years.
Like Trevor who's pit is at Boston Beach, Glasses is only open on Friday, Sat, Sunday and Holidays, because he also practices his trade. Both of them literally helpe to build the physical structure of Mickey Jr's Jerk Pit, before going on to build their own.
Glasses told me that the locals say his jerk taste most like the original Boston Jerk taste. Right after telling me this a young man walked up to buy only a couple mouthfuls for jerk pork. I asked him why he came to Glasses. Without me prompting in any way, he told me that it was because it was freshest and closest to the original jerk. I figure he must have heard this initially from an elder because I'd be surprised if he was over 20 years old. However, it was enough for me to find Glasses story credible, espeicially since he had no idea I'd be interviewing him that day.
Shaggy, which originally referred to his father, runs Shaggy's Jerk Centre or Shop, depending on the sign you read. Shaggy, the senior, started the fourth commercial jerk pit in the world. He was purportedly one of the primary teachers of Uton Burke, who would later start Mickey Jr.'s Jerk Centre. His son, Kenneth Bully, the contemporary Shaggy was selected as the King of Jerk by the Jamaica Tourist Board in 2012, and used for tourism commercials about jamaica. In 2013 he was also visited by Jonathon Phang, of Jonathon Phang's Carribean Cookbook, a UK cooking show of the UK Food Network.
Kenneth started learning to jerk at 10 years old from his father Shaggy, including learning to debone a pig. As he makes clear in the episode of Jonathon Phang's Carribean Cookbook, he is an expert butcher, as well as preparer of jerk pork.
Shaggy says that jerk chicken was started by Lawless in the 70's, and that it was Lawless who first started serving fried dumpling at the pits as well. Initially jerk was pork, and it was served with roasted breadfruit. Some say that Lawless was the first to start selling premade jerk sauce as well, and others say that it was Skinny.
Like Glasses, Shaggy's jerk pork is different the others, and I don't know if that is about differences in family recipes, or if it is actually closer to the original recipes as well.
Little David, nee Carvin Leopold Atkinson, has been jerking for 30 years. He's commonly known as Little David, a name he received from his mother as a child due to his size. His great-grandfather was Stanley Duncan, one of the original Jerkmen, who gifted the world with selling jerk.
He started learning to jerk at 20 after finishing school. He learned at the Jerk Pit where I'vy's Jerk Centre currently exists, the third Jerk Pit in Jamaica. He also learned from his granduncle, Drelton Williams, one of the original Jerkmen. After spending three years in Germany, he returned home to Boston and built Little David's Jerk Centre. He says he's been open everyday since, so his customers can know they can always come and get his jerk chicken.
Little David employs three people regularly helping to provide income to other mebers of the community. He also is a firm believer in education and makes regular donations to support local school children by buying them school supplies. He buys books, pens, pencils, and even uniforms that he distributes to those in need. In Jamaica up through highschool, all children where uniforms to school, and can not attend without them.
Jerk started with pork. There are a few claimants to being the originator of jerk chicken. Little David who is related to Trevor, another current Jerkman with whom he shares a Grand Uncle says that he was assisting his "uncle" in selling jerk chicken to tourists off the cruise ships in downtown Port Antonio from the mid eighties. I think this is sometimes confused by others who have a different version of who started jerking chicken. However, I believe they are referring to who was selling it first at the jerk pits in pits in Boston. Although there are a lot of cousins amongst each other, thereis some rivalry amongst the Boston Jerkmen.
Little David does seem to actually be the inventor of jerking chicken sausage. And jerking chicken is still his area of expertise for which he has many regular customers who come to the Boston Jerk Center looking for him and his authentic jerk chicken. There also seemes to be general agreement that he was the one who first started selling festival, vs. fried dumpling, at the Boston Jerk Center. He tells stories of how people used to line up two deep down the street to buy festival from him when he first started selling it in Boston without competition.
Bumpy, formally Winston MacLean, is the second generation Bumpy after his father. His father was a jerkman, and he worked at Mickey Jr's under Uton Burke for seventeen years. Bumpy welcomes all visitors to Boston to taste jerk how it is made in the home of it's birthplace. He is the sole purveyor of jerk chicken sausage, a practice he took over from Little David, his cousin. He sells jerk chicken and jerk chicken sausage from an oil drum barbecue at Boston Jerk Center. He'd like to grow his manufacturing of jerk chicken sausage to sell to all of Jamaica, and even internationally. His favorite place in Jamaica besides Boston is Ocho Rios, where he has family. His favorite musician right now is Capleton.
Teddy Duncan plays an important role at the Boston Jerk Center. I have used him as the face of Mickey Jr.'s Jerk Center, which was started by his brother the now deceased Uton Burke. Mickey Jr.'s Jerk Center is formally owned and run by Frank, Uton's son. However, Frank was camera shy, and interview shy. Teddy a highly recognized jerkman in his own right, and the only jerkman, to be on staff for one of Jamaica's Prime Ministers, (the Honorable PJ Patterson,) helps to run both Mickey Jr.'s Jerk Centre, and Goldteeth's Jerk Centre.
Teddy and Uton's grandfather was Arthur Bignal, one of
the original jerkmen. Arthur visited Moore Town in the Blue Mountains,
where he observed Moors jerking on a spit. No longer needing to be hiding,
the Moors did not need to jerk in the ground where what has happening could be
more easily hidden.
Bostonians started jerking on the jerk pit using pimento wood below, and zinc or planks above to help trap heat from the burning coals.
Teddy started learning to jerk pork at 10 years old, so he's been jerking for 39 years. He was not only cleaning and grinding birdpepper and pimento like other children of jerkmen, but also learning to debone a pig at that age. Teddy says that over time, he worked at all the original jerk pits in Boston.
According to Teddy, Skinny was the person to bring festival from Kingston, but I didn't hear that version from anyone else. And I can believe that his father was the first jerkman to be selling jerk chicken in Boston after learning how to jerk chiken on the grill. Originally, chicken was jerked on a spit, but using the grill was much faster.
At this point in time Mickey's Jerk Centre is clearly the most popular center, and has the most men who are working at it. I believe this reputation was created by Uton who many refer to as the best jerkman of his generation. Teddy helps to keep that reputation going. Uton was the first jerkman to be showcased in the national press, and all of Boston acknowledges the greatness of Uton Burke, the original Mickey Jr.
Trevor is a carpenter and plumber four days of the week, and a jerkman the other three. His great-grandfather Papa Simmit, and granduncle Drelton Smith, were two of the original generation of jerkmen. Trevor also remembers jerking chicken and delivering it to his granduncle to sell in downtownn Port Antonio from 1980's. A story he has in common with Little David by having a common "Uncle" Drelton.
He started learning to jerk young, while still in school, and remembers waking up early in the morninings, about 3am, to help prepare a pit for jerking. With a goal of starting to actully cook by 5am, so that the meat would be ready for lunch that is believable. The original jerkmen all fully slow cooked their pork which took at least six hours.
Trevor started jerking for himself in his 20's after a brief stint as a business man running his own little shop with beverages and sundries. He built his jerk pit at Boston Beach in the late 80's. It was initially much smaller at first, and was expanded to its current size over time. It is at a great location, just up the hill from Boston Beach. Trevor has the best view for your jerk, as well as the benefit of a not infrequent offshore breeze to help cool you down.
He, and Glasses another contemporary jerkman, are both tradesman, who helped to build Mickey Jr's Jerk Centre which was run by Uton Burke, "Mickey Jr." Uton was such an upstanding man, great jerkman, and supporter of the community at large that he is annually celebrated in memorial for his premature death in <when did Uton die?>. Even with family rivalries, no one questions his greatness as jerk man, or his contributions to the community.
Erdly Wilson runs Goldteeth's Jerk Centre. Goldteeth is more of a silent partner. Erdly learned to jerk from his father, and his grandfather was Linton Wilson, one of the first generation of jerkmen.
Erdly has been running Goldteeth's Jerk Centre for over 30 years. He is proud of his product, and has a regular following. He too, started to learn to jerk from the ripe age of 10 years old. He was originally cleaning the centre, and pounding the wild harvested bird pepper. As he aged he was taught more about jerking. He too went abroad, before coming back and starting his own jerk pit.