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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at

Big Jay's Place on 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' Friday

Mural in Jason Howard's Big Jay's Place Caribbean restaurant in Finneytown.
Courtesy Jason Howard
Mural in Jason Howard's Big Jay's Place Caribbean restaurant in Finneytown.

What a gift! Chef Jason Howard celebrated his 40th birthday in April filming with Guy Fieri at his Caribbean soul food restaurant in Finneytown.

Chef Jason Howard's customers found his Big Jay's Place restaurant in Finneytown after he moved it from Over-the–Rhine during the 2020 pandemic.

Guy Fieri found it in a week.

"They called (in April) and we went through a vetting process, and one week later we were filming," says Howard, 40, who started Big Jay's Place in 2016 on Main Street as a New York style deli and salad bar. The Bond Hill native relocated to 930 Hempstead Dr. — across the street from Brentwood Plaza — and rebranded it as a "Caribbean Soul Food Eatery" in April 2020.

Big's Jay's Place will be featured on Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at 9 p.m. Friday (and repeating at midnight). It's the fifth local show Fieri, the self-proclaimed mayor of Flavortown, filmed in April while in town for restaurateur Jeff Ruby's 75th birthday bash.

Social media post promoting Big Jay's Place appearance Sept. 1 on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Courtesy Jason Howard
Social media post promoting Big Jay's Place appearance Sept. 1 on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

The Food Network calls Big Jay's Place "a hidden gem … firing up real deal Caribbean favorites." The "From Chicken to Caribbean" episodealso features restaurants in Nashville, Tenn., and New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Here's the description:

"This trip, Guy Fieri's diving into a meaty smorgasbord. In Nashville, a funky neighborhood joint is serving up loaded carne fries and a skyscraper burger, and in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., a rockin' chef is cooking up real deal gnocchi and Grandma's hands-on pizza recipe. Plus, a spot with an out-of-this-world atmosphere is going huge with monster pork chops and an Italian meat extravaganza."

Howard, who turned 40 while filming the episode in April, says he worked 16 years in various capacities for Chili's, Unos, and Carrabbas Italian Grill in Texas before returning home in 2016.

After graduating from Spring Valley Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist private school in Centerville, he attended Southwestern Adventist University and the University of Texas Arlington. He opened his first restaurant, called My Tais, while in college through a business incubator program called SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise). "It only lasted a year, LOL," he wrote to me in an email.

"I decided to come home so that my kids could be around their grandparents, and I wanted my restaurant start at home. I knew my community would embrace me the way I needed it in the beginning of my independent journey," he says.

After four years in OTR, Big Jay's Place moved to Springfield Township.

"The pandemic hit and we knew that our customer base was not commuting to work anymore, so the suburbs were the perfect transition. Finneytown had the right price point and demographic as well as a mix of traffic," he says.

Fieri's 2023 Queen City culinary tour began with Lucius Qin Pendleton on the show July 29. Then "Triple D" featured The Governor Modern Dinerin Milford Aug. 4, Kiki in College HillAug. 18 and the family style Schoolhouse Restaurant in Camp Dennison Aug. 25.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.