"Yeah mon! Welcome to Jamaica, would you like a cold bottle of Red Stripe and some plantains?" yelled the bartender above the clanging of steel drums and blasting of trumpet.
We were in NYC, 1500 miles away from Jamaica in the middle of a loft once owned by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 80’s.
Just minutes ago, after ducking into a non-descript entrance and walking down a dimly lit hall, we found ourselves in the middle of a reggae dance party.
Bohemian was celebrating the launch of their newest outpost; a beautiful hotel suite in Montego Bay overlooking the ocean.
Their underlying philosophy focused not on profit margins and turning tables with maximum efficiency, but on fostering long-lasting friendships with strangers who bond over the appreciation of food and travel and eventually become one family. With locations in Tokyo, Australia, and most recently Bali, their “family” is growing worldwide.
After taking swigs of our Red Stripe and rum cocktails, Cameron and I surveyed the scene. The crowd was predominantly Japanese and artsy. One hundred photographers, fashionistas, and musicians somehow fit into this 450 sq ft space and the energy was electric.
A slideshow of the Montego Bay property looped on a projector screen that hung above a meticulously kept Japanese zen garden. Just a week prior to the party, the staff of Bohemian were able to fly to Montego Bay and check out the suite firsthand. The slideshow rolled out highlights: jumping off tall cliffs into the ocean, zip-lining, riding a boat to the Pelican Bar in the middle of nowhere, and mingling with the locals.
The entertainment for the evening was provided by Brown Rice Family, a roots band with jazz, reggae, and lots of funk.
It didn't take long for the aroma of grilled chicken to permeate the small space. In keeping with the Jamaican theme, the chef whipped up some homemade jerk chicken sliders that were juicy, flavorful, and spicy.
Tray after tray came back empty as word quickly spread. Luckily, I was able to snag two sliders and to this day, this is my all-time favorite grilled chicken sandwich.
The night ended with an announcement that a karaoke contest would be held on Halloween. First prize was a plane ticket and a night at the Bohemian suite in Jamaica. In that moment, I could feel the burning sand caked between my toes, the salty, sun-kissed ocean spray on my face, and the condensation from a chilled glass of virgin piña colada dripping onto my hand as I laid out in the Jamaican sun.
I needed to win.
It was time to assemble the crew.
Click here for Part II...