Ground Provisions: Jamaican and Panamanian Food Meet in Vermont?

Words by Jesse Serwer, Photo by Matthew Thorsen—

Cool Runnings Vermont

If you’re going to open a Jamaican spot in an area best known for winter sports and ski slopes, you’ve got to call it Cool Runnings, right? That’s just obvious. But what’s not typical or obvious is what’s happened at Negril native Leroy Headley’s Burlington, Vermont shop and restaurant since opening. Cool Runnings is the site of a rather unlikely— but practical— fusion now that Panamanian Mayllet Paz has joined Headley in the kitchen, adding dishes like Plátano en tentación to the menu.

As you may know, the importing of workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and other Caribbean islands to Panama for the construction of the country’s famed canal a century ago resulted in a long-term blending of cultures that still colors the nation today, notably in the fusion of Latin American and West Indian cuisines. Vermont newspaper Seven Days has a great story about the formation of Headley and Paz’s unique partnership, which began after she became a daily presence at Cool Runnings to shop for products for her catering business.

If you plan on hitting the slopes in northern Vermont anytime soon, or visiting the Burlington area for one of its many reggae events, it looks like you’ve just added one more thing to your itinerary.