Authentic, West Indian, home-cooked soul food is the culinary experience owner and chef Divine Blackman provides for customers at his restaurant, the Jive Turkeys Soul Kitchen. This authentic Indian and Southern restaurant is within walking distance of the Fitchburg State University campus on the corner of Main and Day streets.
This restaurant has been open for one year and Blackman says it has already gained a large fan base from people who come for the food but stay for the atmosphere. Blackman, who has a master’s degree in communication from Worcester State University, brought his dream to life with the help of his sons and close family members. His dream restaurant reflects his communication background through his design of the brand identity of the Jive Turkeys, including the logo and interior design.
How did a communications major end up owning his own restaurant? Blackman said it was because he simply liked to cook. “People like my food,” he said. Blackman said he and his sons “do everything- we cook, and we run the restaurant.”
The restaurant has been so popular with Fitchburg residents that he says he is currently in the process of renovating. “We are thinking of opening up the place, adding pub tables, more TVs, and outdoor seating.” He also mentioned there are plans to open another location in Nashua, N.H., but first he must train the chefs to make sure every dish on the menu comes out the same. “It’s important that the Big Mac from McDonalds taste the same at every location. My food needs to have the same taste at every location so we are working on that,” says Blackman.
You may be asking: Why West Indian soul food? Seems like an unusual mix of two very different types of food, right? This is because Blackman and his family come from both Alabama and Barbados, and grew up eating both Southern food and West Indian food. Therefore the food at the Jive Turkeys is a reflection of his mixed background childhood. “The recipes come from my grandma … everything is authentic West Indian and soul food,” says Blackman. And authentic is exactly what his food is, including the signature chicken and waffles dish, fried chicken, collard greens, and corn bread. Everything is served fresh so customers are presented with a hot plate of goodness. The feeling of a home-cooked meal is important to Blackman, “I want people to come in here and enjoy themselves like they’re with family … I want customers to feel like they’re sitting down with family eating a good meal.”
Blackman wants to create a memorable dining experience for his customers, “I want them to leave here saying that they had a unique food experience and that the food was delicious,” he said. “I want them to have an authentic experience here.”
Besides the unique, authentic food, customers are also attracted to the restaurant’s unusual hours. Jive Turkeys is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and then re-opens from midnight to 3 a.m., “for people coming back from clubs and bars that want something good to eat,” he said. These hours are convenient for Fitchburg State students who can’t drive after a night of partying and want to walk down to the restaurant.
Divine Blackman wants to get involved with the Fitchburg State community; he has previously participated in Taste of the Nations culinary fundraiser to help end childhood hunger, which was held through Fitchburg State. “I want to support the community and have students feel comfortable hanging around here.”