Ogarth’s kitchen brings Jamaican street food culture to South Akron

Reporting, writing and photos by Charlee Harris 

Ogarth Thompson was born to cook, and after over 20 years in the hospitality industry, he’s made it his goal to advance the Akron culinary scene. 

Ogarth Thompson is from Discovery Bay, a town in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. Discovery Bay is believed to have been discovered by Christopher Columbus, hence the name Discovery.

“As a kid growing up, I used to wake up in the morning [to] go to the ocean just before the sun hits the water. That’s when you get the most vitamins and everything from the ocean before the sun hits the water,” Ogarth says. “I used to get up and go swimming in the ocean, take a shower in the ocean, then get ready for school.”

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Ogarth started cooking at the age of 7. By the time he started high school, he was selling freshly prepared fish to his classmates.

“I used to go scuba diving and I used to go spearfishing,” Ogarth says.  “I would… catch fish, clean them up to fry, then get ready and go to school and take my fish with me and sell fish.”

At the age of 18, Ogarth was recruited by a job placement program, which sent him to work at the Homestead Resort in Virginia. What started off as a nine-month contract at the luxury resort turned into a 10-year career serving many celebrities and political figures. 

“I started washing dishes, cleaning floors, emptying trash, you know,” Ogarth says. “I did all that for years, but because of my work ethic… other chefs see how hard I work. Next thing you know I’m starting prep for them and been prepping for them. Next thing you know I start cooking alongside them and they start teaching me.”

While working for the Homestead Resort, Ogarth met his wife, pastry chef, and Akron native Chanell. After the birth of their two children, they relocated to Akron to be closer to family. Soon after, Ogarth began working as a Senior Chef at Beau’s on the River at the Sheraton in Cuyahoga Falls. After working there for 8 years, he was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So he began cooking for family and friends. 

“I got friends and family that I always been cooking for,” Ogarth says. “It starts to become family who got friends who say, ‘can I get some of that food?’ because nobody’s going out, so I end up start cooking for them. Then I find out I have a group of people who, every week, I end up start cooking for. Plus I’m a personal chef so I go to people’s homes and prepare meals.” 

Soon Ogarth began to look into a food truck. Then a friend at the Akron Urban League suggested a local lounge that had a vacancy. Ogarth began operating out of the kitchen, and Ogarth’s Kitchen was born.

His location on Cole Avenue, right off Main Street, is not like the fine dining restaurants Ogarth has spent most of his career in. But it is an ode to his Jamaican roots. 

“In Jamaica, street food is a huge deal because not everyone can go to the hotels and the expensive restaurants on a day-to-day basis, so they solely rely on street food — local, you know, corner shops.”

There is no glitz or gimmicks at Ogarth’s Kitchen. Just a modest Jamaican flag marks the location on the outside of the building, and after being buzzed in, you are directed to Ogarth’s Kitchen by the bar patrons (the location is shared with a social club). Upon turning the corner, you see a small ordering window and behind it, the chef and sole employee, Ogarth. There is a dry-erase board with a list of traditional Jamaican dishes. 

Don’t let the one-man show fool you. Ogarth’s years of experience and skill truly shine because there are no lines. Orders come out quick and hot. I order the giant king crab legs with seafood sauce and slaw. The crab pieces are thick and juicy. The Jamaican spices complement the dish perfectly. I also order a beef patty for the road and it too is delicious. The crust is flakey and the meat filling just melts in your mouth.

An authentic Jamaican experience from a fine-dining chef in South Akron. Had I not tried it for myself I would not have believed it. Much of Ogarth’s business is by word of mouth and his Facebook page. His place is truly a hidden treasure 

Ogarth hopes to get a food truck soon and looks forward to the growing Jamaican scene in Akron. 

“It doesn’t matter who for me — I’m happy when I see somebody trying to advance the culture of cooking. I just want you to know what it takes to do that.”

Ogarth’s Kitchen is located at 145 Cole Ave.

Open 4-9 pm Monday-Saturday

330-962-6412 or Ogarth’s Kitchen on Facebook 

Charlee Harris was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. She loves her family, her community and has a passion for creative expression. As an avid arts advocate, she is the creative director for the East Ave. Flea Market and an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance.

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