A Chef’s Life: Amanda McCreath
Lover of good wine and cheese, passionate about cooking Amanda McCreath brings creative energy and a deep appreciation for her work to the table. Amanda, owner of Gourmet Jamaica, is a trained architect. That eye for detail honed during her architecture studies, contributes to her day-in-day-out passion: being a fantastic chef.
Amanda is bringing her talent to Crisp, one of the amazing events of 4th annual Jamaica Food and Drink Festival.
Let’s found out more about her life as a chef.
Amanda Lee Kristina McCreath.
Who does the cooking in your house?
When I’m by myself in my apartment… you think after cooking for so many people I’m going to fix myself a meal? If it’s not crackers and cheese, I’ll just go to my bed with some water. People think chef’s cook these extravagant meals for themselves every day. In reality we actually eat the ‘what left’. If I’m home in Kingston my mom tends to do the Sunday dinners and I’ll cook on the big occasions: Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. At Christmas the kitchen is packed with everyone making their specialty dishes.
What are your favorite flavors to work with?
I love garlic more than anything else. Nutmeg has become my little dirty secret, it enhances white sauces, and seafood… that bad boy is highly underrated.
Savoury or sweet?
Savoury for sure but I do like when a savory meal has a hint of sweetness.
What’s the ethos behind Gourmet Jamaica?
It is my outlet to creatively express myself through food. It’s always about providing the best and the healthiest. The name Gourmet Jamaica says it all: showcasing Jamaican food, the fact that we are privileged to get produce so easy without the added chemicals. Food is to be used to enhance our bodies. Most of the illnesses out there are related to what we choose to put into our bodies.
Have you always known you wanted to be a chef?
No. I was dead set on my path to becoming an architect. I always questioned myself in architecture, in food I am confident. Being a chef has given me purpose. I can’t explain to you how good it feels to do well in your career. It was not easy and yes, there are struggles, doubts, off days, but the passion behind wanting to learn more and grow in the industry motivates you every day. Nothing sweet me more than a quiet dinner table after you have served the meal. That’s how you know it tastes good lol.
Explain your cooking style in three words.
Healthy, spontaneous, and Amanda lol.
If you had to pick a dish to eat every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oaky cabernet sauvignon, Miss Birdie crackers and mature aged Kerrygold™ cheese.
Tell me about what you do on a day-to-day basis.
Depends on the day, some days I’m up from 3am cooking non-stop, others I don’t leave the bed because of how tired I am. And it also depends on the up-coming event and if there are any events. Some days are the dreaded invoice day, others are marketing days. I do work from home and I have a no bedroom rule; at the end of the day you have to be disciplined, treat it as a job and not a hobby. I always start by mentally planning the day right before I get out of the bed. I’ve actually found that this simple step helped me to get things done easier and faster.
What was the first thing you remember cooking/baking?
Cookies. The type you could stone mango with. When I tell you I could not cook you’d think it was a joke! But the first proper thing I ever made was a bacon wrapped steak over puff pastry for my father’s birthday.
Tell me the best thing about your job.
The flexibility of it. I’m building my own brand not someone else’s. I also love how genuine the other chefs are in the industry. There is no hate or fighting over jobs, it’s always chefs reaching out to help others, brainstorming, uplifting each other, offering help if needed. It’s refreshing and that type of love creates a progressive industry.
The worst thing about your job?
I love my job so much that the only thing I can complain about is not being able to have a manicure that lasts longer than a day. Oh the invoices! The knife cuts and oven burns don’t hurt anymore.
What’s your favourite/most impressive thing you’ve ever made?
I think my beef wellington. All simple ingredients, but it’s a complex process with a lot of steps. I start making it the day before.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Start earlier. When I started Gourmet Jamaica it was more or less a hobby for about eight months. If I had treated it like a business from day one, registering it, writing a proper business plan, proper costing, it would have saved me stress and heartache. But at the end of the day this is all a learning process. I don’t think I would have pushed myself to pursue culinary instead of architecture. The skills I learned in university have definitely come in handy. Architecture has given me an eye to see what works and what does not work presentation wise. The tiny models I built make assembling mini desserts so easy!
Where do you like to go for a good dessert and what do you get?
CPJ’s wine aisle, I want a cabernet sauvignon wine or a Malbec and a perfectly paired cheese. Or Mummy’s Christmas cake!
What advice would you give aspiring chefs?
Invest in a good phone or camera that can properly document your work. Take a picture of everything that you make, even your process. Study food photography, it will go the extra mile when applying for a job or to bring in new clients.
Knowing which jobs to take and which jobs not to take is very important, know your limits and know what isn’t worth it. You have the power to agree or disagree to do the job. Stand firmly behind your price.
Always try to learn something new. I dedicate one hour every day to learning something.
Be humble. If it is necessary for me to wash up or do some of the dirty work best believe I am doing it. Do anything that needs to be done to ensure that the event goes well. A bad review can and will damage your career.
Respect your staff and most importantly your client.
Prioritise investing in your business and craft versus spending money to go session and on ‘boot’! Network and meet potential clients rather than going to a party weekend. Buy a mixer or build inventory. The party and the friends will always be there.
What’s your personal motto?
The Yello sponsored Jamaica Food and Drink Festival is an amazing showcase of the nation’s immense culinary talent, with chefs like Amanda displaying their skills. Go and check her out at Crisp on 25 October!