Step into the Kitchen of House of Jerk Dread on Penn Street

Transcript from episode, watch the full episode here:

Justin: Following your dreams could take you places you never expected. That’s why we’re here at House of Jerk Dread on Penn Street in Reading, Pennsylvania. So how did a construction worker from New York City become a professional chef here in Berks County? Let’s find out on this episode of bites of Berks!

It’s a family affair with Roger (aka Jerk Dread) and his wife Jeanette as they serve up some classic Jamaican barbecue. Today I’ll be sampling some amazing mango wings, an appetizer full of flavor, hot off the grill jerk chicken, and some out of this world stir-fry cabbage.

It’s like home, you have Jeanette, you have Roger, you have these people who love what they do and they exude love. – Annarose Ingarra-Milch

Justin: While the main dishes here at HOJD are the star of the show, they don’t joke
when it comes to the side dishes.

So in this pot we have some cabbage, some carrots and some green pepper, but I’m gonna call the jerk dread right over here. Tell me what’s going in here.

Roger: I have the onions, garlic freshly cut, lets get everything on the fryer.

Justin: (sampling the Stir-fry Cabbage) Like you said crispy crunchy I get that Adobo and I think you made a good call there to put that in. The flavor is unbelievable, carrots are crunchy, green pepper, I’m tasting the onion. Every little bit of flavor, every ingredient that he put into the pot is unbelievable.

So you keep telling me about this festival and I’m thinking a party, I’m thinking you know something fun,

Roger: This is called festival, it’s how do you say, once you taste it just like a party in your mouth. so I’ll make you some. I could tell you like 3 ingredients. Flour, bacon powder and some cornmeal. Festival is ready, lets pull it out of the fryer.

Justin: You’re not kidding there’s a party in your mouth! I don’t even know what I’m tasting it’s so good. It tastes almost like a dessert, so you’re saying it’s a snack so would I be right in saying that it’s something you eat after your main meal like a dessert or before as an appetizer. It tastes almost like a doughnut it’s so good.

So I keep hearing you talk about these Mango Wings and I need you to make me some because my mouth watering just hearing about the flavors what goes in.

Roger: we start off with chicken that’s already part wing, is a pretty big and we use a special blend of marinate for one or two days and then it’s ready for fryer.

Justin: So it’s a two day marinade, can you tell me what’s one or two ingredients? You don’t have to go too deep with it.

Roger: Oregano and garlic. Everything else is proprietary. Oh and Old Spice with mango puree.

Justin: Okay so fresh mango puree going right in there and you’re gonna toss the wings right there. Lets get those in the fryer.

So we’re gonna dive into the Mango Wings! Dude this is out of this world. The mango comes right through instantly. I’ve got a little bit of spice but it’s nothing too too crazy. It’s not overbearing you know, someone that says they don’t like spicy food they’ll love this because they get a little bit of the spice but it’s sweet with the mango. The chicken is moist and juicy. Everything is flavorful, I could eat these all day long!

Roger: Before I let you go I want you to try some of this jerk chicken!

Justin: Talk to me a little bit about the prep of the chicken.

Roger: It’s been cleaned with vinegar, trimmed off excess fat then I season it up with special rub.

Justin: So talk to me about what makes Jerk Chicken, what makes it Jerk?

Roger: With the Old Spice and the rest of the ingredients blended together with pepper it becomes Jerk. Jerk is normally spicy but im catering to a vast amount of people so I can’t make it that spicy.

Justin: Alright let’s dig in! Wow, it’s unbelievable like you said there’s spice but it’s not overbearing because you’re catering to a large amount of people but the flavors are unbelievable that mango dipping sauce is really good. I love everything about this dish, the skin is crispy, chicken is juicy, everything about this it’s unbelievable. You knocked it out of the park! Nice work.

There’s a lot of magic and heart that goes in in the kitchen but there’s also a lot of magic and art on the walls on the tables on the front of the house. I’m here with Jeanette, Rogers wife and the restaurants manager. Talk to me about the tables, art and everything that goes into the design.

Jeanette: So the tables were actually handcrafted by the Jerk Dread himself. Prior to going into this venture he actually worked with a demo company and he was able to see items that were going in the trash and see the beauty that it could have. He’s a welder by trade and a cook by passion so he loves what he does and he wanted to really personalize this space. He actually took his welding equipment and burnt the brand HOJD which is House of Jerk Dread on the tables. He shellacked them to give them a nice shine. The base of the tables were actually purchased from a secondhand scrapyard, who goes to a scrap yard to make something as nice as this.

Justin: So something that really catches your eye when you walk in is this beautiful piece of art right here up on the stage.

Roger: To me life is like an hourglass. You have the middle, the bottom, and the top. Once you get all part of this hourglass operate as one, then you will succeed.

Justin: So not only is there passion going into the food here, there’s passion that going into every piece of this restaurant and it’s beautiful and it really shows. I thank Roger and Jeanette so much for having me here today. You need to come check this place out right here at 1034 Penn Street in Reading, Pennsylvania. I’m Justin Choate and this has been Bites of Berks.