A Chat with the Fresh Monger, Jamaica

Published on: March 20, 2017

Caribbean cuisine is unique. The way that all the cultural influences of the region come together to create food that is similar in so man ways yet so unique is something on which we thrive. Our coasts share the waters of the Caribbean Sea and so it can come as no surprise that part of our cuisine is sourced from it. Gina May Mair has managed to, like the sea engulf all aspects of the arts and share her knowledge with younger generations but her nourishment is not limited to the mind she also nourishes the body through her seafood business in Jamaica. Seeing the natural gifts of the earth and sea Gina uses her creativity and corporate creative experience to offer a fresh perspective on educating young ones about the value of what the Earth has to offer and how we can use our environment for a sustainable future.


Di: Are you from Jamaica originally?
Gina May: YES! Proudly Jamaican! Born in Kingston and currently live in the hills above Kingston it is considered rural St. Andrew known as Reggae Mountain and walking distance from internationally recognized Dub Club and Skyline Levels.


DI: Have you always lived in Jamaica?
Gina May: I have lived between Jamaica, Miami and Atlanta.


Di: Your food has an obvious emphasis on ‘freshness’ – fresh, quality ingredients from the seafood choices to the seasonings… Is that where the name ‘Fresh Monger’ comes from?
Gina May: Well in Jamaica we have certain silly associations with words and fish monger, which is in essence what I do. It’s just not as fly as ‘Fresh Monger’ so I decided to remove a negative and coin a term. I guess you could say it’s my creative and brand development background coming to the fore with the freshness!


Di: Tell us some more about your food movement — Your vision.
Gina May: I just believe that it’s always better ‘Fresher’ and life is too short for bad food. I have always been an activist where environmental issues are concerned and I try to live life and make choices that I can live with. A life that generations to come will benefit from. I believe that food is powerful - spiritually, culturally, economically and physically. I guess you could say it is a form of liberation and rebellion for me. A FRESH revolution deliciously delivered.  


I believe that food is powerful - spiritually, culturally, economically and physically.


Di: Have you always been a champion for the sustainable seafood movement?
Gina May: I started cooking at my grandmother’s knee. She ran a catering business until well into her middle age. She was a simple and genuine woman from St. Elizabeth whose firmest belief in life was that it was important to “live good with people” . I have no formal training but started cooking on my own from an early age. There was never a person who entered my grandmother’s house that was not offered a meal or morsel. She always believed that there was enough to share.



Di: What does being a sustainable seafood food company mean to you?
Gina May: 
It means ensuring that we observe healthy catch limits and adult species size, seasons and fishing sustainable species. 



Di: What Inspires you to cook the way you do?
Gina May: I LOVE food, the way it brings people together in the kitchen and around a table. The laughter the flavors the storytelling the nourishment and healing that is served in a single meal. Cooking is like a meditation for me and provides me with real joy.  




Di: Is a variety of fresh seafood very easy to access in Jamaica?
Gina May: Yes as long as you work with local fisher folk.



Di: Do you have go-to suppliers for your business?
Gina May: Absolutely I have a core group of 16 fisher folk that I work with. I completely admire and appreciate what they do. They sometime risk rough conditions in their canoes to deliver the Freshest local sustainable seafood available in Jamaica! 




Di: Do you have favourite ingredients, seasonings, types seafood?
Gina May: Mmmm that’s hard. I love ginger, pumpkin and steamed fish with bammy. 




Di: What’s your favourite meal to create and why?
Gina May: Hmmm again difficult…probably steamed whole snapper finished by pouring searing hot ginger scallion sauce. Then again there is grilled lobster or snook filet roasted with herb butter or grilled kingfish filet with grape leaves or Freshly sashimied wahoo OR harissa mackerel…Does it look like I have a problem? I probably do!



Di: What’s your most requested dish?
Gina May: Tuna Poke



Di: Would you say that Jamaica has an influence on your cooking style outside of access to ingredients?
Gina May: Absolutely! There is so much that is passed down from generation to generation that is learned subliminally…when you add the ginger to the pot…how you season the meal…I believe in a nose to tail approach to cooking so yes the filet can be the main meal but then the frames can be used for stock and the collar cut which is often ignored is amazing on the grill. Those sweet cups of meat found in the cradle of the bones by the front fins are delightful with a dry rub and grilled to perfection.  



Di: What are your inspirations for yourself and Fresh Monger?
Gina May: The amazing local ingredients around.


Di: Have you ever considered or had a storefront business?
Gina May: Yes…I strongly believe there will be a right time and place. I believe that there is a divine plan at work in the universe. I trust and have faith and take it one day at a time. 


Thanks for taking the time to chat Gina May. We're looking forward to being back in Jamaica soon to taste your hand.

Writer: Indra Ramcharan-Jack
Creative Professional & Freelance Writer from Trinidad and Tobago, based in London.

Interviewer & Editor-in-Chief: Tanya Marie
Designer & Founding Creative Director of Designer Island

Illustrations: Clayton Rhule




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