THE VOICE: 'I want to challenge belief that Jamaica is bad and cheap'
SashaKay Fairclough, The Voice Writer
When entrepreneur Theresa Roberts invited me to her Chelsea flat in upscale London for this interview, I had no idea what to expect.
She is the owner of the newly opened Jamaican restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, The Jamaica Patty Co. (JPC).
Born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica, Roberts moved to the UK as a young girl. And she has done what very few Jamaican women have managed to do - not only has she made her mark among the upper-class in the United Kingdom, but she’s established herself among Jamaica's affluent.
When I arrived at her home, she greeted me at the door wearing a t-shirt emblazed with ‘Jamaica’.
"I love my country so I have to represent it,” she said as she welcomed me into the beautiful and spacious abode which she shares with her husband, corporate lawyer and businessman, Andrew Roberts.
When we settled in the lounge, I shared with her that I have Jamaican heritage and that my father is also from St Elizabeth. This brought yet another smile to her face.
"I am a proud Jamaican," she said. "It is always great to meet the younger generation".
She grinned as she proclaimed Jamaica Patty Co. as her biggest achievement to date.
"Before opening JPC, I managed our family's property portfolio and focused a lot more on Hanover Grange, which is my home in Jamaica.
"Now, in a typical day, I get up in the morning and prepare the chicken and dumpling soup for JPC.”
I wanted to find out more about how she came up with the idea for such a lucrative venture. "When I was building Hanover Grange in Jamaica, I lived on Patties and coconut water.
“When I returned to London, I thought ‘oh my God I wish I had some real Jamaican Patties’.
“I saw that there was a market here for good quality patties, plus I developed an addiction to promoting my country in a positive way."
She described JPC as a place that will show the world the good quality of food that Jamaica has to offer at a good location.
"I want to get rid of the stereotype that everything about Jamaica is bad and cheap. Not everything about Jamaica is cheap, we have good quality food and good quality products that we can serve in a posh environment."
She noted that she is determined to change the view that many people have of Jamaica. "It is as if nobody wants to print anything positive about my country, most of what you see in the media is negative so I have this addiction to show them what Jamaica has to offer and that it is not negative, it is good, clean and classy."
Even though she is now on her way to accomplishing her dream, the beginning, like that of most successful businesses, was quite arduous.
"My biggest challenge was acquiring the premises in Covent Garden. Even though we established in 2013 and were ready to go, we were not able to get the premises until 2014.
“I wanted a prime location but the landlords always go for ready-made brands."
She added: "I am a very determined person, there is no way that I wasn’t going to open the restaurant at that location, my philosophy is ‘when things get tough, work harder’.”
"I want to have about 50 stores in the United Kingdom, in fact that is exactly what I will have,” she said with certainty.
The JPC patties, which are available in seven flavours including curried goat, ackee and saltfish, beef and jerk chicken, were created by Trelawny-born chef Colin Brown.
"Everyone loves the patties. I have had only positive reviews,” she said.
Roberts also hopes to expand her empire with a new jerk business when JPC is fully up and running.
The Jamaica-born entrepreneur is also an avid art collector. She showed me the beautiful pieces in her home, many of which are by Jamaican artists she supports.
"I love art because it is cultural and expressive of my people,” Roberts said.
She also pointed to an incredibly large and stunning portrait of herself that was painted by Zimbabwean artist Craig Wylie.
"He was the first artist I ever bought.
“The main reason we got this flat is because we had nowhere to put the painting and my husband said ‘don’t worry, we will find somewhere’.
“He then went and purchased this place and it is absolutely perfect for it."
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