Chef Insider: Brian Lumley

Jamaica's celebrated chef dishes on the island's food scene 


At 28, chef Brian Lumley is already a leading culinary talent in Jamaica and has been for years. After graduating from culinary school and working in top hotel chains on the island, he was tapped in 2008 to be the personal chef of the French ambassador to Jamaica. In 2013, he won the coveted Taste of the Caribbean’s Caribbean Chef of the Year Award, and he promptly followed that up by opening 689 by Brian Lumley, a critically acclaimed restaurant in Kingston featuring sophisticated and authentic regional food.  

What should visitors to Jamaica know about the island’s cuisine?  

All that people [seem to] know about our cuisine is jerk, but we have so many fresh ingredients, and a distinct way of using those ingredients. We [make dishes with] fresh ginger, fresh lionfish, fresh lobster and crayfish. Jamaican cuisine has really helped me to appreciate the bounty we have here. 

How would you describe the food at your restaurant?

What we do is a thing called contemporary Caribbean cuisine. We present our food in an international way but still retain the Caribbean identity. An example is our ackee and saltfish spring rolls. We serve them with a sweet chili sauce and avocado mayonnaise. So, when you’re tasting them, the filling on the inside is a little different. Ackee [a fruit native to Jamaica] is very unique. You can describe the texture, it’s similar to scrambled egg, but you can’t say what it tastes like. Ackee by itself doesn’t taste that good, but when it’s paired with saltfish, it tastes very good. 

What is your favourite dish at 689? 

My signature red wine-marinated French lamb chop. The lamb is seared, grilled and oven-roasted and comes with a balsamic red wine reduction, mint paprika oil and mango glaze. I also like the hamburger. Guava, pineapple and hoisin sauce with a grilled burger, so the juices carmelize. It takes you into a world I can’t describe.  

What local specialties do you suggest visitors to Kingston try? 

Our seafood dishes. Escoveitch is a big thing, and lionfish and conch. The conch is so fresh, you can taste the difference. And they should try our ground provisions, as well. Roast yam steamed off the grill, with some saltfish thrown on it—you can’t get that anywhere else.  

Do you have plans to expand beyond Jamaica?

I don’t know where I’m going to go yet. It could be Canada. But Jamaicans don’t do well in the cold! [Laughs.] I think it’s very important for a chef to travel, to spread love for your cuisine and to learn. That’s how the cuisine can grow. 

Lumley's Food stops

For seafood

“Try Gloria’s in Port Royal. On weekends it has fresh escoveitch fish, conch soup and oysters.” 

For genuine jamaican food

“I like M10 Bar & Grill in Vineyard Town for authentic home-cooked cuisine. I love to go there to drink rum and eat oysters.”

For Jerk Chicken

Sweetwood Jerk Joint is located over at the shops at Emancipation Park, smack in the middle of New Kingston. The jerk chicken there is slowly cooked for up to three hours over sweetwood [on] a specially made grill.”

For street food

“There’s a spot in Mount Rosser, just outside of Linstead. You’re going to come to a yellow shack with a wooden sign that says ‘Jerk Pork.’ Just stop.”