Taste of the Islands
Long-time caterer brings Jamaican fare to Winston-Salem
For more than 15 years, Desmond “Uncle Desi” Wynter has been serving authentic Jamaican food. Locals have turned to his Uncle Desi’s Jamaican Kitchen catering service for their weddings, parties and business and social gatherings.
The Jamaica native, who has also served up his food at the Dixie Classic Fair and local street festivals, is hoping to reach an even wider clientele through a deal currently in the works with a local restaurant, which will serve Wynter’s Jamaican fare during dinner time hours. The dinner menu will feature Wynter’s food. He is confident that diners will not be disappointed.
“I stand behind my product,” said Wynter. “I know once they try it they’ll come back because it’s addictive.”
Wynter credits his mother and grandmother for giving him his lifetime love of cooking. He immigrated to the United States to join his mother when he was 19. Like many immigrants, he said his family came to the states looking for a better life. He lived in New York, where he studied at the French Culinary Institute and majored in both business and computer science at the Interboro Institute.
He worked as a cook at major Big Apple hotels. He held a second evening job at a Pepsi data center. When Pepsi moved the center to Winston-Salem in the 1990s, Wynter followed.
By 1997, he was working at Wachovia. It was then that he began catering on the side. Uncle Desi’s Jamaican Kitchen catering is a family affair. Wynter’s adult children Sean and Sasha and his wife Joyce help out.
Desmond and Joyce married in 2004 after Joyce’s hairstylist, Renee Bell of Stella’s Daughter hair salon, introduced the two. Bell had promised to find her a good man, and Joyce said she succeeded.
A nurse, Joyce is no slouch in the kitchen herself, whipping up homemade chili, banana pudding, chicken salad and cornbread for customers when her work schedule allows.
“I love it,” said Joyce about helping with the catering. “I’m a very sociable person, and I enjoy talking to the people and telling them how good the food is. And you meet all kinds of people when you’re at these events.”
Wynter’s offerings are varied. He is a vegetarian and an avid gardener with his own greenhouse, where he grows the vegetables he uses in his dishes. Though his vegetarian items are popular, island favorites like braised oxtail and jerk chicken are most popular with customers.
Wynter said he always sells out of his food and his famous Caribbean punch when he sets up a tent at local events.
“I remember when we did the Wine Festival down in Tanglewood Park, the event started about 11 and was supposed to go ‘til 6 and by, say, 1 the line was so long,” said Wynter. “They left every other line and came to our line because the food was superior.”
Wynter started his own restaurant in 2008, after he retired from Wachovia. Oasis was adjacent to Marketplace Mall. Wynter said the eatery did well, but a sewer issue caused $40,000 worth of damage. The expense to fix the building eventually sunk the restaurant, Wynter said. He said he is looking forward to a fresh start in a restaurant setting next month.
To reach Uncle Desi’s Jamaican Kitchen, call 336-995-5659.