Basil Jones, Food Maestro
By Sophia Lawson
He jokingly says, “I’m cooking too long.” That’s because he’s “been in the kitchen” professionally for 32 years now – and counting. But he started way before that, way back in Jamaica in his grandmother’s kitchen when he was just about 15 years old. So the next time you visit Footprints Café, Brooklyn’s premier Caribbean restaurant, and you browse through its extensive mouth-watering menu loaded with tons of exotic items to choose from, rest assured that this is the brainchild of Executive Master Chef, Basil Jones.
“I was introduced to cooking by my grandmother when I was just a kid. I loved her very much and I also found out that I loved cooking too. I’ve been doing that ever since. I started by cooking for about eight members of my family and the more I cooked the better I got. After I left school I went to work at a local hotel called Sans Souci, but not as a cook. I did housekeeping. But I always found a way to get to the kitchen. You could not keep me out of the kitchen,”Chef Basil told CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS.
Finally, in 1986, he was transferred to the hotel’s kitchen where, at first, he cleaned ovens, washed dishes, peeled potatoes, and assisted the breakfast chef. In this environment Chef Basil says, “I started to really learn how to cook.” Determined to be a skilled chef, he worked extra long hours at a time observing, watching, and asking questions of the hotel’s top chefs. Chef Basil also worked with the cooking staff preparing and presenting special dishes in local cuisine competitions. He earned a certificate of merit for his cooking and culinary skills from Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Edward Seaga in 1983.
“I also got a scholarship to Hocking Technical College in Ohio for six weeks in the first instant and then for two years later. While there I cooked and served over 200 people at a 5-star private golf course, and worked with a mentor and master chef for 10 years cooking at some of the most expensive and exclusive hotels and golf courses in the world. Over my career I have cooked for groups of up to 4,000 people at a time, as well as small, selective and picky groups,” Chef Basil said.
Chef Basil joined the Footprints Café team in 2001. Today, he oversees all of the restaurant’s menu items, food quality and control, training of the restaurant’s cooking staff, restaurant and kitchen safety – he’s very big on that – portion control and periodic testing and creation of new menu items.
And what message does this Master Chef have for young people interested in becoming restaurant or hotel chefs?