Thu | Aug 6, 2020

A walk down memory lane

Published:Thursday | November 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Norma Shirley
The Gleaner Company's deputy managing director, Christopher Barnes, had lots to say to Norma Shirley at Norma's on the Terrace when he dined there during Restaurant Week 2008.
Anil Sud
Rudolph Gschloessl
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Amitabh Sharma • Contributor

They passed on but have left a mark on our lives; the aroma of their creations continues and will continue to tickle our senses and palates and their memories inspire and spread cheer. A tribute to Norma Shirley, Anil Sud and Rudolph Gschloessl as we unfold another chapter of Restaurant Week starting November 13.

Norma Shirley ... Jamaican culinary icon

Her names were as multifaceted as her culinary skills, she was "Norma the food stylist, decorator, chef and cook par excellence, host, mother, god mother, aunty Norma and to her friend Norms," recalled Joy McHugh, an old friend.

McHugh's husband Ruddy friendship goes back to their high school days, "she was the god mother of my son and we are the god parents of her son Delius," she said.

Shirley studied to be a nurse and practised in New York, she was not a born cook tough, " Norma couldn't cook to save her life," McHugh jokingly remarked.

Food became the love of her life.

Her foray and subsequent love for cooking started when she was living in Dorchester, in New York, McHugh recalled, "Her apartment was on a high rise and overlooked Central Park, it was on the occasion of the 40th birthday of her husband, that she moved all the furniture in the living room and converted into a dining area.

This was a small step to what would become the catalyst to transform Jamaican food to gourmet fare.

McHugh said Shirley's venture into catering began when she and her husband moved to Berkshire, NY. "None of the ladies used to work there and she was at home, bored stiff."

Shirley went to Tanglewood Music Festival and found the food awful, it is then she decided to do lunch baskets for the concert.

"Shirley went to local farmers market and bought peach baskets, put her cutlery - soup bowls, wine glasses from Bloomingdales and served a scrumptious lunch," McHugh said.

For Shirley, it was all about giving the best, she was a true country person to the heart, humble yet classy.

"She used to enter she enters your life like a whirlwind, and she had her way of announcing her arrival when she drove to my house but was a very private person."

Shirley was very fond of sports, "she loved athletics, and sometimes she and my husband went to Manning cup and to watch athletics, imagine two people in their 70s, cheering and shouting in the stand." McHugh recalled.

"Norma has touched the lives of so many chefs," McHugh said. "I am proud to say that she single handedly increased GNP of local farmers; she used to use jack fruit, Nesberry in her colour taste and texture in her food."

Her legacy lives on as her son Delius, who owns and operates Ortanique-on-the-Mile restaurant in Coral Gables, Florida, spreads her mother's warmth and culinary fare to the world. "He is opening another restaurant Ortanique, in Caymans, on 24 November, day-before thanksgiving."

Shirley was inspired by food, "She lifted the food bar to another level...she challenged her own self and raised her own bar every time, she will be dearly missed," McHugh said.

Anil Sud - Jewel in the crown

Anil Sud was one of the pioneers in introducing tantalising flavours of Indian cuisine to Jamaica; from Passage to India in Ocho Rios to Jewel of India in Kingston, Sud's culinary expertise created a riot of flavours and brought the expanse of the Indian spices to the Jamaican diner.

"He was a true master chef and very creative," said Andy Dhanpaul, director, Jewel of India and a long-time friend. "He was a master in creating fusion dishes and translating them into wordings of the menu."

Dhanpaul recalled meeting Sud in Ocho Rios when he was director of operation at Jamaica Grand. Numerous evenings were spend at Passage to India, talking about their love and common interest, wine. This is where the genesis of the culinary journey took root.

"Passage to India was really the first and truly authentic Indian restaurant in Jamaica," Dhanpaul said and added that Sud wanted to replicated something similar for Kingston.

"When he decided to open a restaurant in Kingston, the idea was to make the place chic and straight line and not too loud," Dhanpaul said. "It was keeping in lines with the sophistication that Anil brought with him."

Jewel of India was opened in Marketplace on January 5, 2006.

Sud exuded a warm personality and had a great sense of humour, Dhanpaul said. " He was very jovial and at the same time a very meticulous person when it came to work, it was a pleasure working with him."

Sud travelled far and wide and was always was gathering and accumulating information about the latest trends in cuisine across the globe. "He incorporated his expertise and travel into the Indian fusion food; Tandoor Fillet Mignon were one of the signature dishes introduced in the restaurant," informed Dhanpaul.

As most Indians tastebuds tingle to sweets, Sud was no exception, and it was this love that flowed into his decadent creations. "He was good at creating desserts, the decadent dark and white chocolate mousse was one of his many creations that diners love."

Sud very jovial and full of life who lived life Kingsize. He loved to socialise and had a passion for all finer things in life, one being fine wine. "He was an avid collector of watches and loved latest gadgets."

Said Dhanpaul, "When he was in the kitchen, you could taste the difference in the food, you could taste the love ... " a tradition that Jewel of India will strive to carry and spread in the years to come.

Rudolph Gschloessl - music the food of love

Neville Anderson, partner at Café Aubergine and an old time friend of Rudolph Gschloessl (or Rudy as he was known among friends), went into a time warp in the in early 80s to Munich, Germany. "Rudy was the financial controller with Warner Brothers, I met him at a party and we bonded immediately."

The bond was their similar taste in cooking and food, and the duo hit off on a crescendo.

"He loved good Jamaican food and we opened Neville's Jamaican restaurant in Munich," Anderson said.

Anderson, who loved cooking, and Gschloessl, were food aficionados and introduced Germans to fine and elegant Jamaican dining experience.

Some years down the line, Anderson said, they decided to replicate the similar experience in Jamaica. "We decided to do the opposite, a European restaurant in Jamaica," he said.

Gschloessl moved to Jamaica and Café Aubergine was incepted, the rest is history.

Gschloessl was a down to earth person who was very humble, and had a great sense of humour, recalled Anderson. "Rudy could belong to anyplace in this world."

Born and raised in Bavaria, the traditional hops growing region in Germany, Gschloessl was youngest of five children. "He loved to eat good food and love his beer and roast pork," said Anderson. "He used to say that in his region beer was their mother's milk!"

"He was a connoisseur of good wine and fine food but deep down he was a country boy."

Rudy was an avid dancer, and liked listening to all genres of music, "Anderson recalled, breaking into a smile. "He loved to sing even if he was singing off key."

Simplicity, discipline and hard work were some of the key traits of Gschloessl, "the most evident trait among them was his humility, he was never a show off and didn't want a profile," Anderson said.

He admired Mohammed Ali and John F Kennedy and always dreamt of visiting exotic countries across the world.

Gschloessl's sudden passing, has left a void in the lives of the people, whose lives he touched, laughter he spread, fond memories and some unfinished dreams. "Rudy always wanted learn the piano, he wanted to go to Brazil, Peru and Argentina," said Anderson, "but he never made it."

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com