Anette Murphy carries on her son's legacy
Firmly rooted in Jamaican culinary heritage, is our love of pan chicken. Rising from the trademark Jamaican entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, the 1960s marked the emergence of the pan chicken we know and love. Men and women cleverly re-purposed old oil drums: cleaved in halves, outfitted with hinges and holes for ventilation, to develop the unmistakable combination of flavours, that define jerked chicken - pan style.
Thus, began the pan chicken tradition, much to the scrumptious delight of locals far and wide.
Wherever you find a chef, a cook or food vendor, you will come to find that the noble profession of food preparation and service is a family tradition and a point of pride. No one knows this better than Annette Murphy, the PAN 2018 Regional 1 winner who hails from Kingston.
Annette, who actively enjoyed cooking from a tender age, explains that being a pan chicken vendor is a family affair:
"My cousin is a pan vendor and so was my son," she explains. "My son is the real reason why I decided to stand up and carry on the tradition," she continued. Back in 2005, Annette's son, Shoy McKoy, then 25 years old was afflicted by a sudden illness that unfortunately lead to his passing. "One day, he came home complaining of his head. He went to the hospital and was discharged, and within a week, he was gone."
Saddened by his loss, but inspired by his passion for pan chicken, Annette opened her business along South Camp Road to carry on his legacy. "It was difficult, at first. I got some help from my cousin to set up the business, but it came to a point where I was either going to do it, or close it down," shared Annette.
She stood steadfast and carried on despite the challenges, to honour the memory of her son. Three years later in 2008, Annette decided to enter PAN, hosted by CB Foods which was then in its third year.
"I wanted to see what PAN was like so I decided to enter. Lo and behold, I won the championship for Kingston," Annette recalls.
Falling short of taking the PAN 2008 title, Annette continued to practice and hone her craft, before re-entering in 2014. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, Annette was disqualified. Still holding on to the dream of becoming a PAN champion, she again entered this year and is determined to achieve her goal.
"I'm here to claim what's mine, because I know I can do my thing proper, proper. I knew that if I got the chance to make it to Portland, I didn't have to ask any questions, I would take home the win."
And, Annette is winning in other ways, with a vibrant business. On a Tuesday, a truck comes to deliver six bags of CB Chicken, each with 10 whole birds, ready for preparation. Wednesdays are dedicated to seasoning, marinating, and bagging chicken to be transformed into savoury delights.
The pan jerking officially begins on a Thursday. Annette offers a vibrant menu including cow skin soup and chicken foot with red peas soup. Customers can enjoy her distinctively delicious pan chicken with sides like roasted breadfruit, festival, and even a Jamaican staple, rice and peas.
Beginning at 4 p.m. on weekdays, Annette provides mouth-watering leg and thigh or breast and wing quarters, making her way home after midnight. On a Friday, she's set-up by 3 p.m. and works until the wee hours of 2 a.m., when, on occasion, she has had to turn patrons back so that she can return home.
A mother of two and a wife to her husband Lebert, Annette's pan chicken business, 'A & L' is the main source of income for her family.
"I love what I do and it provides for my family. Many times when you come to my spot, you have to join a long line! I am 60 years old and I don't feel a day over 40, I think the business keeps me feeling young," she says laughing.
And, she shared, the support from her family has been wonderful: "My husband helps me out from time to time, as well as my cousin. I can always count on my family when I need them." Despite being a three-time entrant to PAN, Annette maintains her excitement, hoping to claim the title of PAN 2018 champion and to hold the trophy high.
Should she indeed emerge the winner, Annette plans to make good of her prizes by investing in her business: "I want to open a restaurant and be better set-up and being the PAN winner would really help me to do that. I want to continue to stand firm in what I'm doing in honour of my son."