About a year ago a friend asked Chris Lordi (pronounced Lord-eye) to cook up some food for an informal gathering. And the rest, as they say, is rampant business growth via word of mouth about incredible deliciousness. Okay, maybe “they” don’t say that, but it’s true in the case of Irie Island Eats.
“We didn’t really plan on it becoming a full blown business,” he said.
“He’s always loved to cook,” said Natalie Allen, his fiancée. “But I think Chris was really motivated by the good reviews, and it took on a momentum of it’s own.”
Since then, Irie Island Eats has been making the rounds around town. They’ve turned up at local festivals like Marathon’s Craft Beer and Bubbly Fest and Key West’s Fantasy Fest and last week they catered a Marathon Chamber After Hours event at Habitat for Humanity. They have a wedding on the books next month, and this weekend they will be at Grimal Grove’s Chocolate and Wine fest on both Friday night, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23. One of the most special moments of 2015, however, was when Chris was asked to cook the Christmas dinner for the employees of Keys Fisheries.
“That was flattering,” Chris said.
Keys Fisheries’ Mike Dunkailo said it was an obvious choice.
“Chris’ presentation is good, I can’t say enough about the quality of the food, and he knows how to handle a crowd,” Dunkailo said.
For a food business that lacks a food truck or a brick and mortar location, that type of exposure is invaluable. Although Irie Island Eats has some tried-and-true crowd favorites, it’s clear Chris is just hitting his stride.
“The rice bowls were pretty popular at the Beer and Bubbly fest,” he said, “but that’s not something we regularly make.”
“And they liked those pork tostadas,” Natalie said, “but we only made those once.”
On the other hand, the public refuses to do without the Kalua Pork. It’s made with Hawaiian red sea salt, cracked black pepper then wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked for hours. And a certain member of the Weekly staff is prepared to elbow competing customers out of the way in order to secure his Spanish chorizo sausage. Island Irie Eats also has a fantastic slaw — Napa (Chinese) cabbage, cilantro and Key Lime vinaigrette. The tropical mixed greens salad features mescaline and romaine lettuce, plantain chips, pineapple, mango, papaya and the aforementioned Key Lime vinaigrette.
“For people who are health oriented like myself, I appreciate the cooking because it’s not only delicious, but I also feel good about eating it,” said Matt Sexton of Keys Cable Park.
Chris moved to the Keys less than a decade ago after selling his restaurant in West Palm Beach. Natalie, a Michigan native, has been an islander for about the same amount of time. Both hope Irie Island Eats will develop into a full-time venture, or almost full-time, leaving them enough leisure time for fishing and playing with their young son, Nolan O’Hara.