Jamal Small is passionate about and dedicated to the craft of culinary art. He immerses himself in the world of food and its presentation and always says it’s his goal and life’s mission to always be at the cutting edge of the industry, and share his knowledge with people around him. So, it was a bit of a shock when the chef seemed to be taking a step back from the kitchen in accepting the position of corporate chef, business resources department at Sysco, but said that he is in no way, shape or form stepping away from the range.
Case in point, in catching up with Small, he was in Sysco’s kitchen preparing a Mediterranean salad; linguine with grilled shrimp, Parmesan cream and topped with Wagyu beef; with dulce de leche cake topped with cinnamon Chantilly cream desert for lunch for a management group – followed by a presentation to purchasers showcasing the versatility of lavash (flat bread), offering it oven-roasted; grilled with olive oil; a barbecue chicken flatbread and a quesadilla.
The chef, 33, said his new role actually pushes him to be even more in sync to the kitchen in every aspect.
“So, I definitely have not stopped cooking in any way, shape or form,” said Small who has been on the job for a mere three months.
“And I’m super excited for the new job because I get to see where products come from – from start to finish.”
Small, who has trained alongside culinary greats like Nobu Matsuhisa, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and does not shy away from the fact that he is known for his fine dining culinary expertise, said he now has to be straight across the board and has to reach deep within himself for something as simple as dropping an item into the deep fryer and ensuring it comes out at the right crispness.
Having gone from executive sous chef at one of the country’s top resorts from which he was enticed away into the world of private chef at a home on Paradise Island, Small said he now has more creative freedom, even though the job is still structured.
“I have more creative freedom. I can move at my own pace – almost, and the job pushes me to be more balanced.”
At Sysco, he also gets to work with a smorgasbord of ingredients, even though he still hasn’t come across an ingredient he’s unfamiliar with, yet. He said it will probably take a while, but he is super excited that they will begin importing an amazing style of authentic Japanese Panko breadcrumbs that he said has the proper flake and consistency that the restaurants like Nobu and Katsuya will appreciate.
“We have samples in now of the Panko breadcrumbs and we are just awaiting the shipment,” he said.
The list of his essential duties and responsibilities is long, but the chef said it’s a role that has always been one of his long-term goals and the fact that it fell into his lap without him seeking it out, blew his mind.
“I sat in an interview [one day], cooked for the president of the company [two days later] and was offered the role that same day.
“This role is nothing short of amazing, and to not [have taken] it on would be career suicide.”
Small’s new role took effect in June, propelling him from the private chef world into the corporate arena.
His impressive rèsumè also includes Taste of the Caribbean’s Chef of the Year 2019 title, Caribbean Chef of the Year 2018, and Caribbean Chef of the Year Beef Category in 2013.
With Taste of the Caribbean, the region’s premier culinary competition, canceled for the second year, Small, who is a proponent of cooking competitions, said he is ready to compete and that he misses it.
“Me and [Chef] Kevyn [Pratt] just spoke about Taste of Caribbean. We ready to compete. We need a competition. We miss it.”
He is also working for a company that has lent its support to the national culinary program, and Small said Sysco has assured him their full support if and when he has another event.
Knowing that his food is much-loved, the chef shared a couple of his recipes that his fans can recreate in their home kitchens – his spice-rubbed pork with guava papaya hot sauce, not your typical peas and rice vegetable run down; and his Bahamian poutine. And while the recipes are involved, he said taking your time and attention to detail will ensure your recipes are delicious and picture perfect.
Chef Jamal Small’s spice-rubbed pork with guava papaya hot sauce, not your typical peas and rice vegetable run down
Spice rub pork
(Ingredients: dry rub)
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
1 ½ teaspoons cumin, ground
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
Toast spices separately in dry pan to bring out essential oils and allow to cool. Combine.
1 cup sour orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
5 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 whole goat peppers, seeded
1/2 ripe papaya
Combine and blend until smooth
Use both to marinade and season pork. Slow roast in oven, China box charcoal or gas grill
Cook to medium well (155ºF). With rest time, pork climbs an additional five degrees; time depends on which cooking method. Allow to rest same amount of time cooked for ultimate juiciness.
3 fresh or 1/2 canned guava
1 cup ripe papaya
2 cups favorite hot sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Bring all ingredients to simmer except butter. Allow fruit to steep and flavors to build. After minimum 20 minutes, strain solids and impurities and fold in butter. Taste to adjust seasoning. Salt content varies in hot sauces as some tend to be higher in salt, so ensure that you taste before adding salt.
1 cup yellow onion, small dice
1/4 cup celery
2 tablespoons garlic minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces bacon/pork fat
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup tomato small dice
1 pumpkin, small diced and blanched in coconut milk
4 cups hot chicken stock or beef stock
2 cup Arborio rice
2 teaspoons chives
1 tablespoon salt
In a large pan on medium heat render out bacon fat. Add onion, garlic, and gently sweat for about 10 minutes until really soft. Add butter, extra virgin olive oil, and rice and toast. Add tomato paste and cook out. Add tomato, thyme and pumpkin. Combine until simmer. Add chicken stock in three stages until rice is al dente; season to taste. Set aside. To serve, add hot stock and toss season finish with chives.
Vegetable run down
1 cup cabbage
1/2 red bell pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 large carrot
1 cup blanched spinach
½ cup coconut milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chopped goat pepper
Thin slice vegetables. Sauté in butter, add cream and coconut, allow to reduce and naturally thicken; season to taste.
Chef Jamal Small’s Bahamian Poutine
8 ounces French fries
4 ounces seafood sauce
4 ounces buttermilk cracked conch or shrimp
2-3 ounces Mozzarella cheese
Chopped chives, scallion pepper curls to garnish
Cook French fries to golden brown in 350ºF oil, place in serving vessel. Generous sprinkle of Mozzarella cheese on top of fries. Heat sauce, pour hot sauce on crisp French fries and cheese. Top with cracked conch. Garnish.
2 cups conch
8 ounces water
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, diced
½ bell green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chicken base
2 tablespoons All-purpose flour
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1 habanero pepper
In a pot, add conch, water, bay leaf, thyme pinch salt. Allow to come to a simmer, cook until conch tender. Strain liquid and save, cut conch into fork size pieces and set aside. In clean pot, add butter, sauté vegetables until tender. Add chicken base and flour, cook for 2 minutes before adding liquid from the conch along with habanero pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in conch, adjust seasoning and finish with heavy cream.
Buttermilk Cracked Conch
3 whole fresh conchs, washed and tenderized or eight 16/20 shrimp
Pepper salt to taste
1 cup buttermilk
1 whole egg
Seasoned flour, for dredging
Season seafood of choice before marinating minimum of 20 minutes in buttermilk and egg. Dredge in seasoned flour and fry at 325ºF until golden brown and delicious; drain on paper towel and use as topper for poutine.