“I am a food therapist, a healer,” says Jason Ice. Few chefs would see what they do as having a spiritual connection. But that's exactly what live food is for Ice. The 30-year-old is the owner of Live Food Lifestyle on Main Street in Ocho Rios, and he has been quietly making a name for himself as one of the up-and-coming foodie radicals to watch. He can be found at Ujima farmers' market in Liguanea, Kingston, every other Saturday, serving up dishes like his Salad Surprise to vegans and organic food lovers like Chronixx.
“I want to make healthy eating fun and appealing to young people,” he says. Which is why his main dishes are Fiesta Pizza, Reggae Wrap, veggie burger and ice cream — all made from raw, natural, seasonal ingredients. So his ice cream flavours these days are chocolate and jackfruit. The Salad Surprise, which Ice creates from scratch and his imagination, can comprise — on some days — shitake mushrooms, Irish moss, ackee, lettuce and avocado, all lovingly seasoned with herbs and spices. “It's all about the seasoning,” Ice points out. “You can eat just about anything — once it's seasoned right.” His Energy Balls (made from almonds, cacao, and cashew) are also a big hit.
He serves his food with a laugh because it's about being happy, he says. The Kemetic yoga practitioner and musician strives to live up to his full potential as a human being, and says he doesn't limit himself to only Jamaican cuisine, and researches ingredients other cultures use. His use of pumpkin leaf as a wrap is a Middle Eastern influence. He doesn't experiment, he says; rather, he explores food.
“This is my way of loving Jamaica: a way to give back and showcase the best of our country,” he explains. His philosophy goes back to the legacy of growing up in the country (St Mary) and having to make his own toys, be they slingshots or tops. “You use what you have when you can't afford what you want.”
Even the décor of his café speaks to this resourcefulness. At first he had wanted to use plyboard but couldn't afford it. So he and some friends went out and cut bamboo, and now he has a funky, all-natural bamboo and thatch outdoor seating area. “When we were young, we would build houses. When water gone, we would go by the river. And you might feel bad because you poor. But then you grow up and realise the spring water is actually better for you,” he observes.
In just one day a US music producer and a Canada-based film-maker stopped by for some of his offerings. Most of his customers are visitors, many from the cruise ships that pull into Ochi every week. Ice has tapped into a growing global food movement that works on the tenet that food retains more nutrients in its raw state than if it is cooked. This is true - but only to a certain extent. Heat reduces the level of vitamin C in food if cooked above a certain temperature. And this has been proven in studies with tomatoes. However, take-up of lycopene, a more powerful antioxidant, is actually improved by cooking because heat helps to break down the plant's cell walls so the nutrients attached to them are more easily accessed.
Other vegetables, including spinach, mushrooms, peppers and cabbage, provide more antioxidants such as carotenoids and ferulic acid to the body, when boiled or steamed, and other trials have shown that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene, which the body uses to produce vitamin A.