Island Café & Grill brings authentic Jamaican cuisine to Cape Cod

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HYANNIS РMost mornings Patrick Sterling sits in the kitchen at Island Caf̩ & Grill, mixing an array of Caribbean spices as he cooks up authentic Jamaican and American cuisine for Cape Cod patrons.

Immersed with ingredients like allspice, scotch bonnet, vinegar and chili, Patrick said his marinades and dry rubs were also “infused with love” to add “flavor and flair” to dishes like curried goat cheese, oxtail and jerk chicken.

“You can’t buy that at the store,” he said. “The love I have for Jamaica and for Cape Cod adds a kind of little touch that creates a different taste.”

Courage leads to a “moment of pride”

Patrick and his wife Erica Sterling were born in Jamaica and moved in 1988 to the United States, where they worked in hospitality for Cape Town entities like Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, Riverway Lobster House and Schooners Restaurant before opening. Island Café and Grill in 2017.

The restaurant thrives as one of Cape Town’s only Caribbean culture restaurants and recently won the Grand Hyannis Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Small Business of the Year’ award at its 39th annual dinner and meeting which was held on November 4 in Hyannis.

As she stood in front of around 150 attendees at the awards ceremony, Erica said she had experienced a “proud moment” as Jeanne Morrison, President of Amplify POC, presented her award citation. , which was signed by Kip Diggs State Representative D-Barnstable.

“We always try hard, we always move and work hard and sometimes it feels like people don’t know how difficult it can be,” she said. “They saw the best in us.”

Patrick said he was touched by the price and felt it highlighted the journey that led to the restaurant opening.

“Our passion for food and for our business goes back a very long time,” he said. “We have given a lot of ourselves to other places and it took courage to energize our own dreams.”

For Marty Bruemmel, president and CEO of the chamber, it is the duo’s “constant commitment” to the community that has earned the recognition.

“They are a huge achievement from Jamaica,” he said. “They came to this country and worked hard, and we voted unanimously to give them this award. “

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruemmel said the couple created “incredibly innovative” options for customers, which has helped them stay open as other businesses in the region were forced to close.

“It’s hard enough to start a business, but the virus and a pandemic-level shutdown kept the pressure on them and they persevered,” he said.

By creating a restaurant take-out hot dog showcase, for example, and using delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub last summer, Patrick said the couple enjoyed their “best summer yet.” day “.

“When the weather was nice, the patio was full almost every day last year,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t have enough places.

Create opportunities for others

The Sterling’s resilience also extends to their involvement in the community, said Diggs, who is the first African-American lawmaker to represent Cape Town on Beacon Hill. By sharing their food and culture with locals and visitors to Cape Town, he said the cafe instilled a sense of awareness that has helped other business owners of color “realize the American dream.” .

“They are trying to promote themselves but also other black-owned businesses by opening doors and opportunities for others – we all strive for that,” said Diggs. “We want a level of business ownership to be available and accessible to everyone. We want everyone to feel good about themselves.

Morrison of Amplify POC, who is also chairman of political and civic leadership for the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, said businesses like coffee are helping “to strengthen the economic viability of the community.”

“The key to any healthy and vibrant community is entrepreneurship and encouraging more businesses to grow,” Morrison said. “It’s important to be intentional in supporting these businesses to overcome the barriers created by the racial wealth gap. It is also important that others see the network of camaraderie and connectivity of POCs (people of color) in the community.

Recognizing Island Café & Grill, Morrison said the chamber has found a new way to add “depth and value” to the area’s community.

“It’s not necessarily intentional, but in the past so many other POC-owned companies have been overlooked or are simply not seen as viable contributors to the community,” she said. “This award demonstrates that diversity and inclusion can build a strong community.

While it has not been possible to confirm that the cafe is the sole recipient of the black-owned award in the “Small Business of the Year” category, previous winners since 2017 are Lamb and Lion, Strawberry Hill Real Estate and Sea Street Inn, depending on room.

Although Bruemmel said the awards are not based on race, he believes “other nationalities bring more to Cape Town and Hyannis.”

“We are all for different cultures, experiences and cuisines. It’s not just a Burger King world anymore, ”he said. “The Island Café has a lot of history, recipes, culture and creativity, and they are passionate about what they do.

Make a big transition

As the community continues to embrace Jamaican coffee culture, Erica said she hopes to open another cafe in the future. With all the success the restaurant has had, she said she was proud of how far her family has come since leaving Jamaica – first as a participant in the H- Immigration Seasonal Work Program. 2B. Until 2015, the visa initiative, according to the National Immigration Forum, brought H-2B visa holders from Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala and the Philippines to the United States to work in the field. hospitality, but also nursing, masonry, construction and landscaping. The first seasons she participated in the program “were difficult,” she said, mainly because she missed her daughter, who could not immediately enter the United States.

“I was 24 when I first came here and it was not easy to adapt to a culture so different from mine,” she said. “My daughter was also born in Jamaica and I had to leave her with my mother until I was 13 and that was probably the hardest part.”

After 10 years of seasonal work, the Sterling began to consider making Cape Town their permanent home. Although they did not make the decision lightly, Patrick, who owned a taxi business, as well as a flower gift assembly service during the off-season in Jamaica, said he wanted “seize the opportunities in America”.

“I realized that we can work hard and become what we want to be,” he said. “Cape Cod has become a place where we can excel and do whatever we dream of. We are now part of a larger community and once we understood that it was easy to decide to stay.


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