Food & Drink

Chef Anthony Green follows his passion of teaching and cooking

Jerk chicken is prepared for a Jamaican pop-up dinner by Chef Anthony Green at Lion Bridge Brewery in Cedar Rapids on Tu
Jerk chicken is prepared for a Jamaican pop-up dinner by Chef Anthony Green at Lion Bridge Brewery in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Green, an instructor at Kirkwood Community College, has launched a line of jerk seasoning, Uncle Beres Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Even if he wasn’t being paid, Anthony Green says he would still want to cook and to teach. An instructor at Kirkwood Community College, he said passing on his skills and love of cooking is his calling.

He’s taking his own advice — he tells his students they should find something they would do for free and make that their job.

“You don’t do what you love, what you’re passionate about, just for the money. Money pays the bill but doesn’t truly satisfy,” he said. “I would do this for free.”

“My wife wouldn’t agree,” he added with a laugh. “But I would cook and teach for free.”

Green grew up in Jamaica, where he said he learned cooking from many members of his family, including his mother, grandmother and aunt.

“Cooking is a way of life where I come from, for both male and female. My mom was like, ‘If you’re going to eat well, you’re going to learn to cook.’ So I learned from a young age,” he said.

A particular influence was his uncle, Beres, who would cook for family parties and neighborhood gatherings, sometimes for hundreds of people at a time.

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“He was one of the chefs in the family … Whenever I would go visit that side of the family, there was always a celebration, there was always food, and there was always a lot of cooking.”

He said his family was poor and didn’t have much, but when they could eat together, that didn’t seem to matter.

“When we came together over a pot of food, it changed everybody’s perception of the world. You could walk into the next day, because you had a good time the night before.”

Along with his job at Kirkwood, he and his wife, Tanya Green, had started a company, Chef Green & Co., offering private cooking classes in people’s homes. They put that on hiatus due to the coronavirus and have been focusing on another culinary venture instead — developing their own line of Jamaican seasonings and sauces. Two months ago they launched the first one, Uncle Beres Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, which is named in honor of the uncle who taught him many of his cooking skills.

“I want to use the product not only to teach people about Jamaican jerk but also as a tribute to him and my family,” Anthony Green said.

He produces the seasoning in Lion Bridge Brewing Co.’s kitchen, since he doesn’t have a certified kitchen at home, and the seasoning is available for sale there, as well as through their website for local delivery, chefgreenandco.com. The Greens also sell it at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, and the Hiawatha Farmers Market, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays.

Lion Bridge is also featuring it in a menu item, a jerk taco with Green’s homemade banana barbecue sauce and island slaw. Someday he hopes to expand to bottling and selling that barbecue sauce, as well.

In the meantime, he’s worked with Lion Bridge to offer a couple of pop-up Jamaican dinners in the last month. He said the partnership with the restaurant has been a good one.

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“I have to give thanks to Lion Bridge,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing about living in a small community like this — this business wouldn’t have made it off the ground without the help of Lion Bridge and people in the community — everyone, from my students from Kirkwood to parents on my son’s sports team. It’s great to give to the community, which as a teacher I’ve done, and to have it give back.”

His wife is originally from Iowa, which is how they ended up here. He first came to the United States to attend culinary school in Nelsonville, Ohio, before moving to Florida, which is where the couple met. Tanya Green was stationed in the Florida Keys with the U.S. Coast Guard. She also attended culinary school, and the two ended up cooking at the same resort. They started a catering business together before moving to Iowa to raise their family.

In Florida, he taught culinary classes at a high school for four years before moving to Iowa and teaching at Kirkwood’s Culinary Arts program.

He said teaching, like cooking, is a way to share and connect with people. And he likes knowing what he teaches will ripple out, as his students cook for others and share their skills.

“I like when someone walks into my classroom knowing nothing or very little, and they learn and grow and change, and they have the knowledge and capabilities to go and transform someone else. It’s contagious,” he said. “I love it because of the impact it can have on people.”

He said food is a way to bring people together and can build bridges across cultures.

“It has a transformative effect, it has a way of allowing people to relax and open up. We don’t spend enough time around dinner tables anymore as families in this country,” he said. “A lot of things can be learned about other cultures through food.”

He recalled being on a soccer team with people from Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and beyond.

“I didn’t speak their language well, but whenever we sat and ate … we were just sitting over food, eating, appreciating food and loving each other’s company. I think a lot could be said about what food is able to do. It breaks down barriers and brings understanding of other cultures … I just think we need some diversity in our lives.”

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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