Center Moriches’ new Jamaican restaurant is all about mom’s cooking
For three siblings from the island country of Jamaica, their new Center Moriches restaurant is an opportunity share their mother and grandmother’s recipes and life lessons with their community. “You have to carry on the family traditions,” said Yakeev Chance, who owns the new Good Bickle Jamaican restaurant in Center Moriches with his older brothers Lester Ellis and Yannick Ellis. “We want to give people our recipes, have them taste the flavors of our cooking. “This is what we cook every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, it’s a common barbecue for us. We wanted everyone to kind of taste a piece of home,” he added. Chance, together with and Lester and Yannick Ellis, moved to the United States in 1998. Fulfilling a years-long dream, they opened Good Bickle at 617 Montauk Highway in December.
The restaurant’s recipes fuse knowledge across generations — from the Ellis’ culinary school education to chef Floyd McNeil’s traditional recipes to the owners’ mother’s vast knowledge of food and taste. “Mom, she could cook this phone, and make it taste good,” Lester Ellis said, cell phone in hand. “Over the years, I watched her, and I tweaked her recipes and made it my own. But mom’s recipes are always the best, you got to stick to it. “That’s basically what we brought here, mom’s recipe, grandma’s recipe, everything that I have learned over the years,” he added. “I try to keep it as authentic Jamaican as possible.”
Learning from the best
In the kitchen, Lester Ellis, McNeil and the crew cook up delicious entrees, including sweet chili salmon, oxtail and curry chicken.
Lester Ellis learned how to prepare the latter from his grandmother when he was young. He first mastered ackee and saltfish when he was 8. “We used woodfires, not a stove,” he said. “We used to cook outside, on the country side, and I learned how to make curry chicken. Then I learned how to make the best jerk chicken.” Lester Ellis’ family recipe for jerk chicken, like all West Indian food, according to McNeil, is a time consuming process that requires not patience, but love. “One thing with West Indian food, it’s a lot of steps,” McNeil said. “It’s more of a comfort, simmer, slow cook.”
In the case of jerk chicken, overnight marination is a must. Ditto for slow-cooking in a barrel grill. “The flavor of the jerk is within the smoke,” McNeil said. “There’s a difference when you cook it in the oven from when you cook it in a slow smoker.” Lester Ellis said his mother pops into the restaurant now and then to taste what’s cooking. And she of course offers feedback. “You know how moms are,” Lester Ellis said. “She knows good Jamaican food — she really knows it. So if it’s not up to par, she’s going to come here and she will say something.”
‘Stepping into a little bit of Jamaica’
Chance knows his way around a kitchen, but his specialties are construction and business. With the help of some friends, he designed and renovated the storefront that Blended All Cuisine vacated last year.
He called on Rich Bollinger to execute his vision of a hodgepodge celebration of Jamaica’s history and culture. Bollinger delivered a mural featuring Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, and such Jamaican national symbols as lignum vitae flowers and the doctor bird.
Chance and his friends outfitted the unit with wood siding, a copper colored zinc roof, a door, a window and a light fixture.
Two beach chairs sit on an elevated platform connected to the shack, rounding out Good Bickle‘s photo-op worthy set up.
“It separates the flooring to show you’re in a different atmosphere,” Chance said of the platform. “When you step up here, you’re stepping into a little bit of Jamaica.”