NFL fans might recognize Quinton Carter as the former strong safety for the Denver Broncos. In high school, he met Tramaine Stephens while they both played football at Cheyenne High School here in Las Vegas before Carter headed to the University Oklahoma and later was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round in 2011.
Now the duo have a Jamaican restaurant, Big Jerk, self-described as the ”nicest jerks in Vegas” dishing Caribbean flavors at the southeast’s Silverado Crossing retail center, close to the intersection of Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Bermuda Road. The venture started as a food truck in 2017 that last year became a restaurant. Here the two co-founders talk about their first year of running Big Jerk and the challenges of operating a restaurant.
What made you decide to open a Jamaican restaurant in Las Vegas?
Quinton Carter: Honestly, we just wanted to bring great quality jerk chicken to Las Vegas and add onto our legacies
How do you guys know each other?
QC: We were introduced by our late friend David Peoples and we attended Cheyenne High School together here in Vegas, and both played on the football team.
How did you transition from the NFL to running a restaurant?
QC: Using the application of sports psychology helped me transition into the business world easier. Both the NFL and a restaurant take teamwork and dedication and good leadership.
How did Big Jerk come together?
QC: We’ve both wanted open a restaurant, and once we figured out we love jerk chicken, we started to make it happen. After a 10-day trip to Jamaica to do more homework on quality and authentic taste, we felt like we had an unique flavor that could be known from Vegas to Jamaica.
How has the location worked for you?
QC: Although this location is a baby step in the direction we plan to move in, it has been a tremendous blessing. The surrounding neighborhood and our loyal supporters make it happen for us.
How often are you in the restaurant?
Tremayne Stephens: We’re here every day. We’re the ones taking orders and talking with customers, and we love that
How did you come up with the menu? Do you have a family member who cooked Jamaican food or is this something from your childhood?
TS: After our trip to Jamaica, we went through all of our family recipes and picked ones that meant the most to us and the ones that showed off the flavors of Jamaica.
What changes have you made to the menu since opening?
QC: Since we opened last year, we added brunch, which has been big. We’ve also added a vegan curry pasta, our vegan Big Jerk pasta, and more vegetarian dishes.
If it’s your first time at Big Jerk, what would you recommend that I order?
TS: The best way to experience Big Jerk is through a combo plate. You get jerk chicken, ribs, and two sides. I always recommend trying the sweet potato mash and mac n’ cheese.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened in your first year?
QC: I feel like in the restaurant industry you’re always told you expect the unexpected in a negative kind of way so we try to be proactive and work ahead. Other than that, we expect success.
How about the craziest thing?
QC: I think the craziest thing is that we’ve gained great traction and feedback without marketing. Grassroots and word of mouth from supporting has been outstanding
What’s the must-order dish?
QC: A new addition to our menu, brown stew snapper filet with one of our rice sides and our signature pineapple ginger to wash it down.
What’s on tap for the future?
QC: Growth and expansion. A bigger location to work out of to be able to get into our full capabilities. Getting involved in more community events.
• All Coverage of Big Jerk [ELV]