SEATTLE — Ernasto “Red” Jackson doesn't see himself as a chef, but that's exactly what he's becoming known for after he was named a 2022 James Beard Award semi-finalist.
Jackson was nominated for “Best Chef in the Northwest” for his creations at Lil Red's Jamaican BBQ and Soul Cuisine.
"I'm just a cook, but I am extremely grateful,” said Jackson.
Lil Red's Jamaican BBQ and Soul Cuisine is tucked inside a former butcher shop on Rainier Ave S in Seattle. The restaurant sits between two boarded-up buildings, razor wire and graffiti-covered street corners.
"We've had our ups and downs, but this is home to me," said Jackson.
Jackson's wife is Jamaican, and her influence is felt on the menu. She's the "Lil" in the restaurant's name, and the Jamaican title refers to her heritage. But the recipes are 100% originals from Jackson himself, who studied the art of barbeque as a home cook.
Jackson grinds three kinds of meat – chuck, brisket and rib eye – to make the popular "butter burgers.” Jackson said customers run out angry if he runs out of his "8-cheese mac n' cheese."
Jackson is one of 20 semi-finalists in the “Best Chef in the Northwest” category. Most are considered “chefs” by classic definition.
"I'm still coming to grips that I'm on the list," said Jackson. "You're never ready when the Lord blesses you with something like this. And whether you're a chef or not, he thinks you are. So, I'll accept that."
Lil Red's is also featured in the Northwest Black Restaurant Week lineup, which can be found by clicking here.