Homegrown herbs and spices. Authentically cooked meals based on years of experience. No pre-cooked, pre-prepared or processed ingredients. Fresh-made spicy sauces. That’s how Heather Wade and Daemion Bailey of Tasterite Jamaican Restaurant like their food, and they won’t serve their customers anything less.
"If it’s something you don’t like for yourself, don’t cook it for someone else,” Bailey said. "I cook [at the restaurant] just the way I cook at home.”
What Bailey cooks is authentic Jamaican cuisine. Having once operated a restaurant back in Jamaica, Bailey and his wife Wade moved to the United States for work in construction, but found Southwest Louisiana the best place to open a Jamaican restaurant, as the area reminded him most of home. And while here, Bailey and Wade are determined to provide real Jamaican flavors.
"Whatever road we go down we’re doing it as a family,” Wade said. "And we’re here to provide the best authentic Caribbean food you can possibly get in the Lake Area and surrounding areas.”
They start with the freshest ingredients. Wade and Bailey grow most of their herbs and vegetables in their backyard garden, as well as prepare their own spices. Bailey prepares his signature marinades and seasonings for his jerked chicken and pork or oxtail with Jamaican methods and ingredients like Scotch bonnet peppers. Anything not found locally is brought from Jamaica.
"We do try our best to grow as much as we possibly can so you’re getting a good home-cooked meal that’s cooked naturally. Nothing comes to us pre-done—we cook everything ourselves. Every day,” said Wade.
Though it’s a big part of the quality, fresh ingredients are not the only things that make Bailey’s cuisine stand out. Bailey prepares a meal as it would be done in Jamaica, from garden to table. He says Jamaican culture and the methods of growing and preparing ingredients lend a unique flavor to food.
"Back home we don’t have much fertilizer because we cannot afford it so everything is grown natural,” Bailey said. "Our herbs and spices, you’ll get them natural.”
This results in flavorful Jamaican curry, oxtail, and a local favorite, jerked chicken, which Bailey and Wade often prepare on the spot at local festivals like Downtown at Sundown.
For those unfamiliar with jerked chicken or pork, Bailey says such meals are not all that different from American barbecue. In Jamaica, the meats are marinated in sauces prepared with spices like Scotch bonnet peppers and then cooked in an oven in a "jerk pan” rather than on a grill.
Bailey’s cuisine here in Lake Charles isn’t quite as spicy as you might get in Jamaica, though. "Here we don’t make anything as spicy as if you were in the island,” said Wade. "What we do is we give you the flavor so you can really enjoy our way of seasoning. We let stuff marinate before we cook it so you get that good taste and good flavor down to the very last drop of your bowl.” Bailey’s sauces and seasonings are available for purchase. They also import Jamaican beverages.
TasteRite Jamaican Restaurant is located at 2305 Opelousas St, Lake Charles, and open 11:00 a.m .- 6:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. They’ve been in operation now for about 2 ½ years, and they hope to keep growing.
"We can’t complain,” Wade said. "With the love and support of the community, we’ve been here still.”