Most would view her as Jamaica’s own Martha Stewart of the kitchen.
Mazie Miller, known affectionately as Aunt Mazie, brought her culinary magic into Jamaican living rooms through the television.
Her natural ability to explain and demonstrate effortlessly on the television staple ‘Creative Cooking’, by Grace Kitchens could be credited for the culinary growth of many Jamaicans. For over twenty years, Mazie fed us the best of Grace foods even creating some signature dishes from one tin of Grace mackerel which quickly became a cupboard favourite.
“My first television appearance was in 1989. We did ‘Quick hot and spicy Grace Mackerel sauce with spaghetti’. We prepared all the seasons, preheat the pan then we added the oil, sautéed the seasoning and… I added the mackerel and a little Grace Cock Soup stock, a little black pepper and some cheese and then I added the spaghetti and served with a crispy salad, it was a real joy to be able to live my passion on TV,” she said.
From the humble community of Ty Dixon, near Worthy Park in St Catherine, Mazie was the only child for her mother and one of thirteen children for her father. Food played a major part of the family.
“I grew up on 15 acres of land, a lot of it was farmland. I had to milk the cows and goat and that milk served us for breakfast. We only bought one tin of condensed milk. We had an abundance of fruits and ground provisions. Think it and we had it,” Mazie recalls, adding that their kitchen with its wood fire, was open to the community.
“We were taught to work hard by our father, he was a mason, a carpenter and a farmer and he took good care of all of us and that’s why we remain close”.
Finally meeting her mother in December of 1986 at the age 22, Mazie remembers crying for a whole week. She said: “It was very emotional because she had me and then moved to England but we now have a great relationship. All my brothers and sisters are close we love to meet up at one person’s house every year and we all cook,” with food being a central feature.
Mazie studied ‘Cookery’ at St. Catherine High School, before going on to food and nutrition related education at the then Jamaica School of Agriculture (JSA) and the University of Technology.
There was additional training at the Culinary Institute of America, seasoned with various short courses.
Her break on television came after a short stint with Dairy Industries, on a programme called ‘I am Mr. Cheese’ where she learned a lot from Fae Ellington and Oliver Samuels.
Maizie credits Grace Kitchen for changing her life. “I go anywhere and somebody is going to recognize me.”
Mazie believes that it is important for the family to eat together at the dinner table and it’s important that adults teach children to eat with knife and fork.
“Let’s take out the knives and napkins out of the breakfronts and use them at the dinner table. Food brings the family together and it’s important to keep that even on weekends for the family,” she said.
She would like the kitchen and dining room to become the central place in the house and home.
Now retired, Mazie enjoys consulting and working at a community level with schools and community groups. She recently received the Order of Distinction for Service to Jamaica in the Culinary Arts.