Jamaica Diaspora 20 under 40: Opal Jackson: The Culinary Artist

Rivaling Opal’s love for her native Jamaica is her love for cooking which she has groomed into a very promising career.   Although the 39 year-old Broward resident has a degree in Medical Administration from Boces University, she prefers the career of being a chef.

“I have enjoyed food and cooking from I was a child. I grew up around food as my mother was a chef, and I learned to cook from her,” says Opal, who has been cooking for people since she was age 15, and began cooking professionally 15 years ago at age 25.

One of the more interesting aspects of her career as a chef is in creating and experimenting with recipes. “I have found out there are so many ways to prepare meals by the use of spices and different ingredients. In Jamaica, and through the Jamaican stores in South Florida, we have the advantage of so much rich spices, that it is no wonder why Jamaican foods is so delicious.”

She cited that there are good opportunities for chefs who are Jamaicans or who have that special talent for cooking Jamaican food. “Jamaican chefs have introduced so much to non-Jamaican food which were usually quite bland that they are in high demand.”

The advice I would eagerly give to youth in the Diaspora, especially if they want careers as chefs, is to “strive to be the best. They must practice, practice to improve the dishes they prepare, and be willing to try new recipes until they are perfect.”

Opal is focused on her plan to open her own restaurant in South Florida where “I can bring my cooking skills, using a Caribbean and Italian twist to Florida to prepare tasty and attractive meals. She also wants to own and operate a mobile food truck, but one with a difference that takes full meals, not snacks, to the people. “I really want as many people as possible to enjoy my meals.”

She says it is no secret that the food she cooks is reflective of her Jamaican heritage. “But much more, my heritage has influenced me in a major way to go after my goals doing my very best in all I do.”

“I am confident and proud of being a Jamaican-American. I am especially proud of the fact that Jamaica has taught me well and prepared me to be rich in culture, ambition and adjust to diversity.

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