Chef's Table - Jamaican stylee

Roy Earle has carried his love of cooking from Jamaica to New York to Atlanta, and those who crave the savory and spicy cuisine can now catch him at downtown's Calypso Cafe & Grill, where he's put his skills to use since about 1998.

Creative Loafing: How did you learn to cook Jamaican food?

Roy Earle: I got to give my grandmother thanks for that. I just watched her and I just picked it up from there. I used to go to culinary arts school in New York. Cooking is something I really love. I don't like it - I love it.

How do you balance bringing authentic flavor and American tastes?

Example: Say I'm gonna cook curry goat. I know how to season that to get a real spicy taste. And say I'm doing something like curry chicken and someone says them don't want it spicy, I can cook it without making it spicy.

Do you have aspirations to own your own place one day?

Well, really and truly, yes. But I don't think I can get it right at this time. It's going to be American and Jamaican, Western Caribbean. I have a lot of experience - believe that. It's a money problem.

There's only one other place I know of that makes tofu in a variety of Jamaican styles. What prompted that?

It's a vegetarian dish. We have a lot of vegetarians who come up in here asking for it. Any flavor you want it to be, it'll make it turn into that flavor.

What's it like to have to cook for the rush at lunch? How do you prepare?

I'm here from 6 in the morning. So I just come in and prep, cook everything and get it out my way. I know the customer, them have probably 30 minutes for lunch or less, I have to get everything, make sure it's tastes right and stuff like that. I'm a very fast cook, very experienced. Matter of fact, I'm cooking since 20 years old [he's now 40].

Is there a specialty item on the menu that people can't get anywhere else?

I know how to cook Italian food, too. Shrimp fettuccine and the grilled chicken fettucine. Not a lot of Jamaican restaurants sell that. All them sell probably jerk fettuccine.

- T. LaGonCalypso Cafe & Grill, 58 Walton St. 404-589-0024.

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