The owners of a take-out restaurant opening this weekend in downtown Lakeland’s Catapult building hope their food reminds diners of a Jamaican setting: dancing to reggae music, the warm, blue/ green waters of the Caribbean Sea, or sipping a fruity island punch while strolling on a white-sand beach.
Owners Corey and Jessica Mundle say their plan for A Taste of Home Grill is simple: “Bring authentic Jamaican food to the people” but also mix it with Southern staples.
The menu starts with a “Jamaican Experience” that includes dishes such as oxtails, brown stewed chicken, jerk chicken and curry chicken. Next comes the “Southern Experience” that includes staples like fried pork chops and grilled ribs.
A Taste of Home Grill opens Saturday inside Catapult, 502 E. Main St. Grand opening celebrations and specials will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The restaurant will be open for takeout orders Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The menu reflects a melding of two cultures and a romance that started several states away.
Jessica Mundle prides herself as a no-nonsense, retired U.S. Army veteran with 14 years’ service. “Tough as nails,” she says, “but cooking has always been my passion and always brought out my softer side.”
It was while at Fort Bragg, N.C., that Jessica got a chance to hone her skills, first cooking for family and friends and then selling plates and doing a bit of catering on the side. Her repertoire consisted of down-home Southern food and she unearthed the childhood dream of owning her own restaurant.
Corey Mundle thought Jessica was special from the day he met her. Soft spoken and as he says ‘a bit shy,’ the Kingston, Jamaica, native plotted ways to get to know more about this Southern woman.
It didn’t take long and the two were dating and found they had a shared passion for food and cooking.
Today Corey insists the student has outperformed the teacher: that Jessica is a master at Jamaican cuisine and does it so well, that she cooks when his Jamaican family visits, and they can’t leave until ‘they have eaten every last bit of meat from every bone.’
On New Year’s Day the couple was driving back to North Carolina from Wesley Chapel, when Lakeland popped up on their GPS. They had decided over Christmas as they visited family in Florida that this would be the year to open their restaurant, but had no clue where.
They felt it had to be Florida but had been to several areas and still couldn’t agree on a spot. They decided to drive to Lakeland and almost immediately said they felt God whispered that this would be the ideal place.
Maggie Leach, kitchen director at Catapult , says she is excited about this new venture for the downtown area and Catapult’s new home at 502 E. Main Street overlooking Lake Mirror.
Taste of Home Grill was chosen because Catapult staff liked the vision and were impressed during a taste test of the food, Leach said.
The restaurant will operate primarily in a virtual space, a “ghost kitchen” of sorts, where the food will be prepared each day in the kitchen but will be served for the most part curbside.
In addition, Taste of Home Grill will occasionally be featured at Catapult’s new pop-up window, a walk-up place where the entrepreneur hub’s kitchen members can sell their products to the public, Leach said.
“The goal is that our companies will launch into their own space within six months to three years,” Leach said.
Read Catapult Lakeland’s member spotlight article about Jessica Mundle.