Derek Minkensky here, bubbling over with all the behind the scenes gossip from Restaurant Take Over’s Rap’s episode! What can I say, Miss Carol stole my heart. Honestly, she and Mr. Rose are the nicest people you would ever want to meet. This episode above all others, reminded me of why we do what we do. We are helping people and their communities.
When I first entered Rap’s I barely realized it was a restaurant. I thought the crew had played a nasty trick on us. But no, this was the place! There was no food in the display cases, tiles missing from the floor, mismatched chairs and tables, half-painted walls and posters for menus! Paula had her work cut out for her. I felt her pain. But of course, I was more interested in the food…
The Jerk chicken that I had was actually different than the chicken Miss Carol cooked for me in the episode. The sauce just dripped off this version. Not in a good way. It was runny! Not at all caramelized in the way a good Jerk sauce should be. Huge disappointment. However, the Jerk Chicken that Miss Carol cooked for me on her drum was probably the BEST I have ever eaten. How could she be serving the slop I ate at her counter? This woman could cook! Sadly she had let her standards slip. It was clear to me that she was the linchpin that held Rap together, but she was crumbling under her heavy workload. The only way to help her was to teach her how to take care of herself, so that she could reignite her lost passion for the food she loves.
I knew a trip to Caribana and an old-fashioned Jamaican-themed beach party would remind her of her roots and the passion she had when she first opened Rap’s. What you don’t see in the episode was that we were actually on a Caribana float! It was a blast! There were so many people our cameramen Kuba and Bart couldn’t even get a shot of us. However they had a blast shooting and it totally shows on screen. They are such dedicated and talented guys. Miss Carol and I were dancing up a storm and getting all riled up with the crowd. It was the best medicine for her. This is her culture and for too long she had been hiding away in her dark, sweaty kitchen. She needed to let loose. The party was the cherry on the sundae.
My ultimate goal in the Rap’s episode was to shave down that unruly menu. It was a typical Jamaican menu with all the classics (and I mean ALL of them!). That menu was HUGE! For the most part, Miss Carol was the only one in the kitchen and she had become a slave to the sheer volume of dishes. I pleaded with her to think about hiring some kitchen help. Eventually she let a little neighborhood secret slide… she does not run the drum at night! That’s the job of Mr. Rap’s, a drum wielding community icon. You may have a caught a glimpse of him on reveal day. Mr. Rap’s made me feel like I was out on the side of the road in Kingston, Jamaica eating a real handful of authentic Drum Chicken. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Mr. Rap’s. He’s a classic!
Kitchen day was so fantastic! Miss Carol was so humble, despite her culinary prowess. I felt honoured to share a drum with her. I think that really comes across in the episode. However, what you didn’t see was our kitchen dance party! We threw down some Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals and went bananas! It got so hot that the popsicles were melting! (Must have been my white man overbite that kept from making it into the episode, because no one had any complaints about Miss Carol’s moves).
Finally reveal day rolled around and it was seriously emotional. If I wasn’t such a MAN I would have cried. (Who am I kidding? I was blubbering. The editor just didn’t include it to maintain my mystique). What you don’t see in the episode is how much this was a community affair. On reveal day, neighborhood folk were approaching Paula and I to talk to us about the history of Rap’s. They explained that it was the original Jamaican restaurant in the neighborhood and that it always had been the best Jerk chicken on the block. They felt Restaurant Takeover was exactly what it needed. They loved the new look, the new food, and were excited to see their old haunt reinvigorated and Miss Carol back on her game! This was intensely motivating and made me extremely proud to be a part of the putting Rap’s back where it belongs - at the centre of its community.
If you missed it, you can watch the episode here.
by Derek Minkensky