Ripe Kitchen & Bar was established in May 2003.
The original intention was simply to have a neighborhood bar with a limited menu of just amazingly seasoned Jerk Chicken, smoked over some “real” charcoal on our massive grill, and some super fresh Fried or Steamed Snapper - like we all used to eat on Sundays at the beach in Kingston, Jamaica where we grew up, sipping on potent cocktails.
We began that way, but as word got out, our customers begged for more menu items and pleaded for full dinner service. We recognized that there was a void in the neighborhood for such a venue so we foolishly filled it, and now, 14 years later, we are still up to our necks running a “real” restaurant (er, neighborhood joint)
We delight in challenging traditional business methods and passionately believe that business can be fun. We enjoy a sense of being different, because unlike most businesses, we esteem Ripe as a continuous “work in progress” with a “purpose beyond profits”.
We continuously strive to present the Art, Literature, Music, and Food of our Caribbean culture in new and interesting ways.
Management is deeply committed to social responsibility, so at the drop of a hat, with drink specials flowing, we make friends and dancers of everyone - neighbors, dignitaries, tourists and staff members alike - into the wee, wee (did we say wee ?) hours of the morning.
Ripe will compromise on almost anything but not our core ideology, our aesthetics or our sense of curiosity.
OWNER & Executive Chef
Chef Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
Opened in 2003, Ripe is Mr. Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor outside of a road side “jerk shack” that helped put him through school.
As part of the CIA’s intense and exclusive training program, Nigel interned at the Television Food Network. After graduating in 1997, Nigel was asked to stay on at the network which he did for approximately 3 years. TVFN afforded Nigel the opportunity to work with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse.
Chef Spence has appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in a jerk cook off against the Food Network star, and later went up for battle with Bobby Flay yet again on Re-Match On The Grill, a one-hour TV Food Network special, filmed at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel and Resort in Miami.
He has also made special appearances on Tony's Table on WCBS (NY), Neighborhood Eats, on WABC (NY), and Martha Stewart's Living Today. He was also featured on the award winning in-flight program Island Stylee on Jamaica’s national airline, Air Jamaica.
Chef Spence made his third appearance on TV Food Network in just over a year in their latest competition series, Chopped. The show made its debut on the Food Network, where he was again pitted against three other Executive chefs in a grueling cooking competition.
Nigel's work at Ripe has also received positive reviews from and has been featured in various media outlets, including: The New York Times, The Journal News, The Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaican Eats, Jamaican Magazine, Jamaicans.com, The Westchester Magazine, Hudson Valley News, the Westchester Tribune, Jamrock Magazine and Caribbean Life.
Nigel has lived in the North Bronx/Mt. Vernon area ever since he migrated from Jamaica when he was just 11, but has kept very close ties with his homeland.
One of his first memories is as a boy who unexpectedly finds himself in a cold, grey land; desperately yearning for his beloved mango trees.
Ripe is his gift to all of us who have lost our mango trees . . . a little bit of sunshine in a "concrete" world