BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Chef Noel Cunningham’s love for cooking was discovered at an early age. He spent much of his youth learning to navigate his way around the kitchen assisting his mother, Jennifer Laidley and his aunt Miriam Reid who was also a professional chef and baker.
“Being around them in the kitchen I was always inspired by their cooking,” Noel shares. One of the first dishes his mother taught him to make was rice and peas with her signature BBQ chicken.
Through their support and encouragement, Noel helped them to prepare family meals and began creating dishes and experimenting on his own. He was formally introduced to the culinary arts at Edith Dalton James High School in Jamaica where he majored in food and nutrition, including home economics management. In class, he continued to further hone and develop his skills and he was presented with the school’s Top Performer Award for food and nutrition two times and graduated top of his class. By the time graduation came around in 2007, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to become a chef.
“I watched a lot of food network and other cooking channels
After graduation, he pursued his culinary studies at Jamaica’s prestigious Runaway Bay HEART Hotel & Training Institute (RBH). While attending RBH he worked as a line cook at the Hedonism Hotel Resort and Spa in Runaway Bay St. Ann Jamaica and he also trained in prestigious hotels such as Grand Bahia Principe, Breezes, San Souci, Jamaica Grande and Royal Decameron, along with the island’s famous north coast.
The experience he gained working in the islands tourist resorts were an essential part of his preparation to forging a successful culinary career, and by the time he graduated at age twenty-one, he was made head chef & restaurant manager at the very popular Cafe Mantra in Kingston, Jamaica.
“The experience that I received in Jamaica was really only the beginning for me,” Noel explains. “I was still a young chef, but the experience that I received at home was building a reputation for me and I was always in search of new culinary adventures and opportunity.”
In 2013, looking for a change in scenery and hoping to expand his reservoir of culinary knowledge Chef Noel jumped on a plane in and moved to Canada, the land of opportunity. In January of 2015 at twenty-four years old he accepted the position of Executive Chef at the Burntwood Hotel in Thompson, Manitoba.
During his time at the various hotels and resorts, he worked at Chef Noel was able to create a variety of healthy dishes, many of them with heavy Jamaican influence, but later experimenting with fusion cuisine infusing Jamaican flavors with international dishes.
In addition to his position as Executive Chef, Noel is also the driving force behind his very own catering company Cuisine by Noel a full-service food catering company which specializes in providing their clients with healthy, authentic and contemporary cuisine.
It was through one of his catering events that Noel shared how one of his client’s proposals ignited another business venture. “I was catering an event, and one of my clients asked me to show her how to make a Jamaican jerk marinade,” he recalls.
“I made the marinade for her, and she loved it so much she was like, why don’t you bottle this?” Noel took her idea into consideration, discussing it with a few friends who were also huge fans of the marinade.
“I ended up bottling a few to test the market, and people started loving it. Even people in Winnipeg liked the taste of Jamaica I was offering in my marinade especially because it was prepared by a chef that they knew and so I decided to make it its own business.
And so, Chef Noel’s gourmet kitchen condiments was born starting with his Smoky Jamaican Jerk Marinade. You can grill it, bake it, or jerk it with Chef Noel’s smoky jerk marinade. It is the perfect blend for adding that extra flavor to chicken, pork, fish or beef.
Chef Noel’s Smoky Jamaican Jerk Marinade is made in small batches with fresh ingredients and no preservatives. The smaller batches ensure that each jar of the marinade is packed with flavor and the authentic smoky flavor really soaks into the meat no matter how it’s prepared.
Currently, Chef Noel’s Smoky Jamaican Jerk Marinade is available online at his website www.chefnoelcunningham.com where you can order and it is shipped worldwide.
“It will soon be available on store shelves in Winnipeg, and I have plans to also bring it to Toronto,” Noel says.
Chef Noel Cunningham is a Jamaican Chef food writer and culinary consultant. He is one of Jamaica’s most recognized and celebrated young chefs socially known as Chef Cunny. He is the dynamic force behind his catering company, Cuisine by Noel. Resident chef at CTV Winnipeg morning live and the Marc and Mandy Show, recipe contributor to the Jamaica Gleaner, Cooking sense Magazine and The Jamaican Eats Magazine
“My inspiration to become a chef came from my mother and my aunt, being around them opened up my eyes to so much potential.” Noel shares. “I also realized that becoming a chef was so much more than just cooking, you can become an entrepreneur, you could be a TV personality or even a writer. Being a chef is a treat, it’s something I really enjoy, the constant learning; the skies the limit.”
Chef Noel prides himself on providing clients with an extraordinary experience that they will always savor. He strongly believes in staying active, continuously learning and always having fun. His cuisine is a fusion of inventive interpretations and modern creations. He has an established reputation for exceptional creativity and presentation, combined with exemplary professionalism, and a meticulous eye for detail. In 2016 chef Noel was Dubbed by Jamaica Eats magazine as one of the top ten chefs of the Caribbean and named must follow chef on Instagram by Narcity Canada.
Chef Noel uses his passion and enthusiasm for food matched with his vibrant and contagious personality to engage audiences to relate to him. He prides himself on providing guests with a memorable culinary experience.