Stamford, CT is on a roll. Prior to Covid-19, the Connecticut city was enjoying a boom as a variety of service businesses including Indeed and Kayak continued to grow and prosper. With that expansion came hundreds of employees looking for the hustle and bustle of Manhattan without the commenting hassle. On top of that has come the continued evolution of the University of Connecticut’s Stamford branch from a commuter school to a new vibrant downtown campus with students living in dormitory facilities.
That growth has led to a new dining scene that has seen a wide range of options from Asian noodles to French cuisine. So, when chef Joab Taylor came to visit a friend, he was quickly smitten with the idea of bringing his native Jamaican fare and restaurant Jerkyz to the Fairfield County community.
In order to make that vision a reality, Taylor found an office sign at 227 Bedford Street for a local commercial real estate broker: Jeff Kravet. “Just before COVID, I came up to Stamford to visit friends and it reminded me of New York City. It was diverse and there was a buzz. As I walked around, I realized that there wasn’t any Jamaican food up here.”
The veteran real estate guru Kravet was taken with Taylor’s enthusiasm for the potential of opening his restaurant Jerkyz in Stamford and as he has throughout his career set his sights on finding Chef Taylor the right space for the venture with the search beginning in Stamford’s Downtown Bedford Street district.
Taylor brings a diverse background to his new eatery. “My Mom really taught me the ropes. She had a restaurant in Kingston, Jamaica and actually also provided food service and catering at the main headquarters of the local telecommunication company,” Taylor explained.
Taylor came to the United States at the age of 16 and finished high school in Maryland. As with many teenagers, he worked at a number of fast food outlets and had the opportunity to learn the importance of executing consistency every day. He then went on to study aeronautics with an eye towards a career as a pilot. “I knew that my first love was food and that I really wanted to open a restaurant,” Taylor added.
“None of these opportunities would have been possible without the hard work and commitment of my Mom to making me a success,” Taylor said. As if part of a movie script, the chef’s mom worked three jobs for him to be able to complete his education. Joab then returned the favor by funding the completion of his Mother’s education.
With a goal of opening his own restaurant, he did whatever he needed to do to save enough money to make his dream a reality. Taylor actually took a position selling furniture to save enough to open his own eatery. With that dogged determination, Jerkyz in Harlem, NY became a reality.
The restaurant was a big hit with locals as Taylor brought authentic jerk chicken, jerky lamb chops, and a full range of jerk salmon, beef and chicken burgers to Harlem. “Our success was really built on the fact that people have a preconceived notion that jerk means hot from spices. It’s really all about the smoking flavors that make it so addictive,” the affable chef continued.
Taylor’s initial Harlem venture, in addition to perfecting his menu, also gave him invaluable insight into how to successfully operate a restaurant. “You need to make sure that you sign a lease that can lead to long-term success and you have to be able to delegate.”
Guests at Taylor’s new Stamford Jerkyz eatery will be treated to Taylor’s unique menu that is driven by his unique approach to the use of smoke and island herbs and spices. His vision for the dining experience for his new Connecticut guests, is to enjoy and authentic Jamaican street food experience. “I want them to feel like they are on the side of a street with that amazing smell of the grill and washing down this delicious food with a Red Stripe beer.”
Kravet, as he has throughout his real estate career, found Chef Taylor the perfect location for his new venture. It was recently the home of an Asian restaurant and features a newly renovated kitchen and bar area.
“The City of Stamford and Stamford downtown owes a ton of gratitude to Joab Taylor for choosing Stamford to open his restaurant and committing to a 10-year lease in this time of such uncertainty and total chaos for restaurateurs,” Kravet offered.
“I am very excited about bringing live entertainment to our restaurant with customers being able to enjoy relaxing Island music while enjoying their meal or a cocktail,” Taylor concluded.
Taylor’s new Jamaican fusion restaurant Jerkyz will debut at 225 Summer Street in late October or early November.