When Alexia Grant was a little girl, her grandmother, Winnie, taught her how to make her family’s Jamaican black cake. The two of them would put scoopfuls of raisins and currants in a blend of port, rum, and brandy, where they would sit and soak for months. When it was time to make the cake, her family would grind the fruit by hand for the batter; you could taste its history, the time it took to soak the fruit, the generations that passed it on. That recipe traveled from the Caribbean to, eventually, the James Beard House, where Grant baked little rounds of black cake back in 2019.
Grant’s food has taken her across the country. For almost five years, she’s been working for basketball player Carmelo Anthony as a private chef, traveling with him for games and moving to new cities when he was traded. When the famous NBA bubble packed into Disney World, she was the only chef cleared to cook for the teams within the bubble, pressing morning juices for the Lakers and cooking team dinners for the Pelicans. But with Carmelo Anthony now playing for the Blazers, Grant has landed in Portland. After a full career cooking for star athletes, she decided she wanted to cook for fans, too: Starting in February, Grant will begin a weekly pop-up the Pearl District bar River Pig, cooking the Caribbean and Indian dishes she grew up with.
Miss Winnie’s Kitchen, named for Grant’s grandmother, will involve a number of dishes Grant grew up making: Caribbean black cake, Jamaican meat patties ground from scratch, jerk kitchen out of a barrel drum. The menus will change, representing a number of Caribbean cuisines (Jamaican, Trinidadian, Bahamian) — “a well-rounded Caribbean experience,” in her words. “Jamaican food is awesome, but there are some really amazing, tasty foods from all over the Caribbean,” she says. That includes dishes that intersect with Indian dishes, things like Trinidadian channa and roti. To combat the inevitable February dreariness, Grant plans to keep the Reggae and Caribbean music blasting throughout the day, as people come to pick up meals. “Being a first-generation American, I thought it was important to represent my culture,” she says. “This is an opportunity to share myself.”
Grant is hoping to start serving meals on February 11 from 2 to 9 p.m., taking over the bar, located at 529 NW 13th Avenue, for the remaining Thursdays in February. Pre-order will be available starting February 1.
• What It’s Like To Be A Chef Inside The NBA Bubble [NPR]