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Bringing the Heat: Julius "The Chef" Jackson

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Professional boxer Julius Jackson is a knockout in the ring—and in the kitchen. In 2008, this native of the U.S. Virgin Islands not only competed in the Beijing Olympics but also graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute. He’s gone on to work at hotel restaurants and appear on the Cooking Channel’s Beach Bites and Food Network’s The Kitchen, where he served up Caribbean coconut shrimp. Jackson shares his earliest travel memory, his current in-flight style, and his favorite experiences in the USVI.

 Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go.
It would be Europe. I want to go all through Europe, but especially Britain, where I have a lot of friends I met in the Olympics. I’d also love to experience traditional Italian and French cuisine. 

What’s your spirit city? (Where do you want to return to over and over?)
Big Bear, California. It's where I like to train, and it's nice and secluded. It's really different from my home in St. Thomas.

What do you love about living on St. Thomas?
I love the small town community feel. I think it makes the whole community more positive and better for raising a family. And you can’t beat the weather here! Tropical living is awesome. 

Do you have a travel ritual?
I wear pants that don't require a belt (easier for security); always try for a window seat (better for sleeping); and carry a charger in my carry-on.

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Do you maintain any routines from home while traveling or does it all go out the window?
Most go out the window. 

Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Spaghetti and meatballs (genuine, homemade Italian).

What are some of your favorite places to eat in the USVI?
I love Thirteen, Hook, Line and Sinker, Buddha Sushi, and Grande Cru on St. Thomas, plus Balter and Zion Modern Kitchen on St. Croix and Candie’s BBQ on St. John.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone traveling abroad for the first time?
Stay open minded and don't try and stick too much to an agenda.

What experiences in the USVI would you recommend to visitors?
On St. Thomas, snorkeling at Coki Beach; getting a world-famous milkshake from Udder Delite after leaving Magens Bay; and eating a plate of local food like fried fish patties or conch.

On St. John, snorkeling at Trunk Bay, hiking the amazing trails, and 8 Tuff Miles, which happens every year in February—it's something to do at least once.

On St. Croix, visiting Point Udall, the most eastern part of the US, is a breathtaking experience that I would absolutely recommend.

Describe your travel personality in three words.
Sleepy, relaxed, optimistic.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?

What's the one travel souvenir you'd save in a fire?
I'm not a collector of souvenirs actually. I cherish the memories.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?
Cool Runnings. Because they were traveling to the Olympics from an island—going somewhere they never thought they would be.

Exploring Barbados with my wife Nicole

Who’s your ideal travel partner?
My wife. She keeps things in order, is a better planner, always on time, and she's fun.

Which travel experience do you prefer: plugged in or unplugged?
Plugged in. With my business and career, I like to remain in constant touch.

What’s a custom from another culture that you’d love to implement in your life back home?
I like that in South Korea they cook their food at the dinner table—that would be cool! Also overseas, eating is really more of a "together" experience, and that's really important to me. I like to have people around my table.

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place?
Food! That's an easy one. I love trying new foods and restaurants, especially ones local to areas I'm visiting.

Trying New England lobster for the first time—much different from Caribbean lobster.
What’s the one thing you indulge in on a trip that you don’t at home?
My life is so busy that I don't always have the time that I want to spend with people. When I'm away, I really indulge in quality time—long spans of time that I spend with people just catching up, without racing on to the next thing, whether it be family, friends, fans, or fellow Virgin Islanders.

What’s your first travel memory?
Flying to Las Vegas when we relocated from the Virgin Islands to Vegas for a few years while my dad was at the height of his boxing career. I remember all the lights in the airport just like how the Vegas Strip is lit up.

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