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International flavor lets food speak

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Dining & Entertainment

Published on August 18, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

You could call it a Bright idea.

Olenda and Steadroy Bright are truly citizens of the world but they live in our neighborhood.

They are traditionalists when it comes to cooking, but their offerings are new to a lot of local people and they have earned a camp following for their So Good Island Grill.

“Mostly, we do the European Market,” said Olenda of her restaurant in the go. So, if you have visited Chesterton’s weekend food fair, you have seen – or heard – them.

There is always music, Steel drums, a little Bob Marley, certainly reggae to blend in with the Jamaican food they serve.

“We also are catering and other festivals,” Olenda said. “This is our fifth year of outdoor vending.”

Next up is this weekend’s Perch Fest in Portage.

Actually, the food biz started with promoting their furniture business, Champion Home Accessories in Chesterton. Olenda is quick to remind Chesterton followers they are anchored in front of the Fourth Street Emporium at 4th Street and Broadway, because, “We try to promote it, too.

“We want to grab the people’s attention,” she said. “We were trying to see which will pull ahead, furniture or food. Food, so far.”

She grew up in Chicago, 21st and Pulaski. The legendary Riverview Park was part of her playground. So were the multicultural street fests. She liked sampling the tastes. The homemade tastes.

That love has never left her.

Steadroy, her true love, swooped in from the sky, literally. He is a native of Jamaica. He is a bridgeworker. They met (and married) in Texas, south of Houston where most of his family settled.

But he liked coming north with his girl, for the bridgework opportunities.

He was born in Jamaica. “We winter there every year,” she said. “It’s paradise on earth. It’s something we have liked experiencing together.

“The sun always shines, the water is so clear. The people are welcoming.”

She said the flying back and forth and having worked around the country makes it easy to work outside even in this summer’s sauna.

“We’re used to a tropical area; it’s like our food, it’s fresh and it’s hot and it’s good.”

And the food. Oh the food.

“Everything is fresh and natural, like the people,” she said.

That’s where their recipes come from.

“It took me 10 years and a pile of cash to get my chicken recipe,” she said. “There are a lot of Jamaicans who cannot outdo my recipe and I know that.”

They serve Jamaican original dishes. “Definitely,” she said.

The favorites are the jerk chicken and rib tips.

“The chicken is marinated, spicy,” she said.

It is one reason they turn down a lot of festival requests.

“We have to marinate,” she said. “My husband is very precise.”

So far, the best part has been the fans of their food.

“They ask where we’ll be next,” she said. “We have wonderful customers, they love our food.

“They keep coming year after year and encourage us to grow.”

Perhaps it is the care they take in their food preparation.

“They can smell it,” she said. The thing about a food vendor at a festival is look for the lines, the customers will tell you who is doing well.”

The Jerk Chicken has only natural ingredients, prepared that day,” she stresses. “The barbecue rivals any in North Carolina.”

The music, the natural island-style fruit drinks, umbrella-shaded tables, the steel drum music … they don’t attend the party, they bring the party.

“The kids love it and it becomes a favorite because it is so different for them (from fast food) Olenda said. “The kids love the atmosphere.”

Her adult fans include some of her patients from yet another job, as a Registered Nurse. “Oh my coworkers also show up,” she said.

“Over and over, we tell them no matter where we are and they follow us. Everyone definitely comes back.”

She is secure in her food.

“They come now looking for us; we don’t have to go looking for them,” she said of customers. “And, really good food speaks for itself.”

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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