"We had visited Buenos Aires, Argentina," explained Tanayia Woolery, founder of Woolery Kitchen, "and had experienced the underground dining culture... a subsequent visit with my Jamaican husband André to his Chalky Hill home in St Ann led me to the realisation that I could introduce the concept here."
The concept: setting a table for complete strangers in your home and, by extension, introducing them to a taste of the other side of Jamaica. A similar concept was introduced by the Jamaica Tourist Board in 1968, called 'Meet The People', and could also be considered part of community tourism in St Elizabeth.
The Chalky Hill experience is one of tradition, family, and a passion for good food.
Reservations for a maximum of eight people at Woolery Kitchen is like heading to the country to visit a favourite family member and raiding the pantry.
We arrived in pouring rain early Monday afternoon but were soon in the warm, cosy kitchen with Miss Faye (Cynthia 'Faye' Smith Woolery) -- who, according to her daughter-in-law Tanayia, is the kitchen's CEO -- sipping mugs of piping hot chocolate and watching her put the finishing touches to our lunch.
There's no deconstructed form of anything on the menu. It's solid, unpretentious, home-made and home-grown -- the organic chicken now simmering escoveitch-style on the range is from a neighbour, the vegetables are from the property, and the chocolate pods were picked ahead of our visit.
Miss Faye's cooking is legendary, shares her husband Charles, who recalls the first cup of soup his wife of 30-odd years made for him. "She really is the best." Charles Woolery, a welder by trade who worked at Reynolds Jamaica Mines for 15 years before migrating to the United States where he spent 30 years, might not have Miss Faye's seasoning hand, but he certainly knows how to make a smooth rum punch called Chello's Rum Punch. (Charles' pet name is Chello.)
The rain eases and allows us a peek through the mist of St Ann's Bay.
Lunch is served and commences with an appetiser: beef patty (blind) tasting -- Tastee vs Juici. That's easy for Thursday Life -- we know a Tastee patty with our eyes shut.
The Chalky Hill pear is cut and the fevergrass and Seville orange juice poured. It's delicious and tantalises the palate with its subtle notes.
Our first taste of the festive season comes with heaped spoonfuls of gungo rice and peas served with escoveitched chicken, steamed cabbage and carrots.
Dessert -- perfectly moist blue draws with just the right amount of sweet and raisins is moreish and is served with shots of chocolate.
It gets better, we soon learn, as Charles readies for the Chello's Rum Punch tasting.
What a truly unique experience to perfectly kick-start our festive season coverage!
"It's early days yet," says Tanayia, "we began setting up in January (2014) and had our first guest on April 30... the reservations are coming in."
Indeed they are, and we'll be back to help Miss Faye with her Christmas baking and spend more time in Andre Woolery's art studio.
Reservations are a must.