The “Why” PART 1

Yes. This is what we do at The Spicy Pearl.

As this will be an ongoing topic for me, I will drop the caveat that there is not an order, priority or limit, as to my reasonings to endeavor in this undertaking of being a restauranteur.

Be sure to look for other entries regarding this topic of “Why?”.

Let’s lay out the atmosphere for this one. Take a listen as the message is in the song:

Easy dub listening. NOT dubstep…a vintage reggae dub selection.

On one hand balance the idea of “Generational Wealth”, not the pros and cons but the actual mechanism of it and on the other hand, the idea of what life demands.

I am an ’85 baby born in Edmonton Alberta so the label of “Millennial” only applies as a catch phrase term to categorize the realities faced by this demographic but defiantly, not me.

(Yes. Defiance.)

So without getting into the weeds, secondary school, post secondary, and career. That is the order we were given, for the most part, to follow.

Well enter the gig – economy and the practices that employers employ which, in my opinion, have eroded employee value. Add the great recession, add in limited wage growth vs cost of living vs cost of a reasonable home and then add in dreams.

Life is real and it demands what it demands.

So as I have progressed and have met (and failed to meet) the needs of life. In doing so, I have realized that I have to jump a generation.

It is incumbent on me to work hard so that my future can work on living rather than working to live. I need to work harder and earn better wages to maximize my time on earth.

The Spicy Pearl allows me to do something I genuinely enjoy and that is being in the company of people and being a part of facilitating their enjoyment of a mutual experience.

I have often found my “best self” in a customer service experience.

I excel at providing positive experiences, interactions, and most important of all, memories.

Throw in 3 years of Business Marketing and it begins to make sense.

Within the function and reasoning of this Caribbean restaurant, my purpose is to provide the atmosphere to the food.

I assure you, our food is outstanding but what people remember is the experience that facilitated the great enjoyment of food. Even if they aren’t immediately aware of it.

Not steak. A Haitian Trio 😉

When you think of a good steak, for example, that you have enjoyed, you don’t think of the time you had bad service.

You only see the perfectly placed grill lines, the flecks of Montreal steak spice. You smell the flavours that await you. You anticipate the morsel as it sits on your tongue to take the eventual passage into your stomach where it will reside like a Carebear beam of “happy”.

You don’t think of your most recent bad server experience.

And to that end, the service in that memory must have been “white glove”.

That is to say, with style, delicate application and a function that mimics the need of the individual interacting with it, as a velvet glove would to a hand.

In this velvet glove example of steak, the service was bang on.

So much so, only the outstanding meal experience remains.

So in sum, the reasoning of my why is twofold. First and foremost, my parents emigrated from Haiti.


They made a way for me to be here.

As a naturally born Canadian, my responsibility to myself, the sacrifices of my parents and my given right to access the full opportunity and privilege of being Canadian and expand beyond my parents’ reach.

Owning a business has never happened on this side of the pond for my family. So this first business ownership is a beacon of what is possible. It is a special kind of hope.

Secondly, I am free to be… My talents are my reward. It is literally a boss feeling.

When you can do what you enjoy and get appropriately compensated for it, man oh man, you are where it is at, for an adult anyways.

**Update** We have painted the door red. You can’t miss it.

Now with all of that said, if you are anywhere between Ottawa and Montreal, be sure to stop by downtown Cornwall Ontario and come have a boss experience on me.

It’s free.

I swear…

But the cost of food is on you 😉

Amat Victoria Curam (Victory loves preparation)

Every one has a dream and the world is made up of dreams what is the bridge between having a dream and manifesting a reality? Planning.

We are now happily known as THE SPICY PEARL but let’s go back to 2015 to a place called Cornwall Ontario.

Cornwall Ontario. Home of The Spicy Pearl.

The exact location is what was formerly known as The Vu Nightspot. This was our first “public” public introduction to our community. It was where we, as a seed of an idea, pushed through the soil and began our process to blossom.

Since then we have held over 30 pop up events. We have even had another location, under another banner but doing the exact same thing.

Bringing good food to good people.

Each event requires a lead out time of 6 weeks, at least.

Each event requires an on site visit to look at the resources available.

Each event requires information to be gathered. What were the limitations? What were the untapped opportunities? How many people attended? What did people like? What did people not like?

A great example of something people like would be our spinners (also known as soft dumplings). Our patrons that attended informed us that the dumplings reminded them of fingers and made it less appealing.

We switched them up to flat mini saucer shaped like dumplings and over the course of the next events, our stews, soups and sauces that had dumplings were well received.

A key question I ask in myself in marketing activities is “how many people do I need to market to in order to convert X amount into a patron?”

Word of mouth is a powerful tool and in order for someone to be interested in speaking about something it has to be memorable, exciting and of value.

So we always planned for the best experience possible. We are not perfect but the returning patrons tell us a lot.

Exciting is in the messaging and the messaging which is directly reliant on what is being organized in the back end.

Value is differs from situation to situation but for us, we kept our highest price point at $15. Minimum wage is $15 out here so one hour of a person’s time is equal in value to one of our meals.

All of those factors converge on a person’s willingness to decide as to whether to stop by our location/event.

For the most part, based on our community of supporters we have, done well by our people.

We have been memorable. We have provided value. We are indeed exciting.

All of this (plus so much more) has allowed us the proper foundation to build this from a concept into a reality.

There is a heck of a lot of small things that build up into a working idea but my advice to you is, victory love preparation.

Have your dreams but get ready to plan. Then commit to working the plan.

Work the plan. Learn from your work. Reevaluate. Retool. Rework. Plan. Work the plan. Repeat.

Am I Caribbean enough?

A rose by any other name…

I am born in Edmonton. I grew up in the Greater Toronto Area. I have also lived in Ottawa.

And believe it or not but I choose to enjoy my life in Cornwall. Cornwall Ontario is a unique place. Located in rural Eastern Ontario and removed from the hustle and bustle of the major urban centers but smack dab in the middle of so much potential.

On the west side, we have Ottawa and on the east, we have Montreal. Cornwall is a fledgling cultural location but it is in the very nascent stages, say compared to Greek “Taste of The Danfourth” in the GTA or say, The Highland Games in Maxville Ontario.

There are many diverse groups in the Cornwall area but as I am a black man, I will speak to that focal point.

What’s missing in Cornwall?

There are very basic things that cause neighborhoods and communities to coalesce. Language, food, culture, rituals, access to cultural services and naturally, people.

As I have lived in this community for 17 years, one of the major hurdles that I have experienced is access to culturally relevant food. Plain and simple, I am drawn to what is familiar.

Or at least, I used to. S/o to Roger.

I have undertaken a several year approach to developing the idea of Caribbean food in Cornwall and area under a few banners – Backa Yawd Caribbean Cuisine, Marrow and Spice, Caribbean by Cornwall and now, The Spicy Pearl which is physically located in downtown Cornwall Ontario.

It is my hope that this food location will ease the fond yearning for ethnic comfort food and the material absence of local access to it for many individuals.

The Flightless Bird

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1754: Dodo – Raphus cucullatus, formerly Didus ineptus – extinct flightless bird from Madagascar. First observed by Portuguese sailors in about 1507, by 1681 the Dodo was extinct due to a combination of circumstances including killing for food by men, introduction of animals such as the rate, and destruction of habitat. Wood engraving 1884. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Language, culture, food, community. These things bind a people together.

Well what if you’re parents are from one place and you are from another, what does that make you?

I often say that I am a bird that can’t fly. I share all of the attributes but lack the “one” thing that makes a bird a bird.

They say, birds of a feather flock together. What they don’t say is how sideways people will look at you if you do not check off all of the check boxes.

So as I am aware of my lacking of attributes (born in Canada, not bilingual, no claim to fame), I still dream in Creole, my heart and soul are of a common history and I will forever be black.

But is that enough to be “allowed” to be of service to a community that does not yet exist in a tangible sense?

Make no mistake about it, I am not in business for self serving purposes. I am in business to satisfy a determined and explored need in my local communities along the mighty St. Lawrence River.

It is my hope and aspiration that this space will serve as a beacon and become a place in Cornwall where people come out of their homes and come together.

For what it is worth, what I have can not be taken and thus, I feel I am Caribbean enough.

We will let the food say the rest.