Anna Chin - Driven by passion for food
Cathy Risden, Lifestyle Writer
At age 13, Anna Chin and her family migrated to Canada. Young Chin enjoyed horseback riding. One of her most memorable childhood experiences was when she was almost flung from one of the horses, but held on firmly. Squash was another favourite and she had the privilege of playing for the Jamaica's National Squash team for a year. As a student, gymnastics, tracks, volleyball, swimming and skiing were also among the sports she played.
While attending school in Toronto, she worked with her mother on their orchard, producing a variety of fruits as each season arrived. Having a mother that loved to farm, cook, bake Christmas cakes and cater at parties, Chin fell in love with the family business. As such, her experiences inspired her to purchase her own onion farm after her mother passed away.
After years of operating an onion farm, Chin's heart was destined for home. "Lyme Cay was what brought my heart back to Jamaica. I remember being there one Wednesday and I saw my three sons on the beach. It was déjà vu for me as I remembered being here in Jamaica as a child and what a great life I had then. I told myself that they would be fine (if we moved here). This is where my heart is and this is where I intend to be," she recalled.
So she returned to Jamaica in 1998 with her husband and three sons and opened JoJo's Farm Market. In recalling the transition, Chin spoke of a conversation she had with a woman on her flight back home. "She asked if I knew how difficult it was to run a business in Jamaica. I responded: 'I never came with that attitude that business was difficult in Jamaica, I came with the attitude that I am going to open a business and I'm going to make it work'," she told Flair.
JoJo's Farm Market quickly became a household name for many. Soon after, her husband and his friends were the inspiration and founders of JoJo's Jerk Pit & More. "When the women were inside shopping, their husbands would join my husband at the back for a drink and they would hang out until the ladies were finished shopping," she said excitedly.
"My mother has been my role model, because she was a hard-working woman and told me that hard work never killed anybody. I maintain that and continue to work hard." Chin shared, as she made special mention of those that helped her along the way. Another important person was Norma Shirley. "When I opened my restaurant, Norma Shirley told me 'don't mek it too hot, put it in-between, because it will eliminate a lot of people out of the spectrum', and so I have always done it in-between."
Chin also said her mother-in-law has taught her authentic styles of cooking Jamaican Chinese and Indian dishes, which adds diversity to her dishes.
Originally from Jacques Road, Kingston, Chin describes herself as being a self-taught executive chef and takes pleasure in imparting her knowledge to her staff - some of whom, she said, had gone on to work overseas and have returned and shared with her how grateful they are for what she taught them.
But it wasn't always easy. The most difficult thing about running a business in Jamaica, said Chin, is the staff. Some she outlined as not being willing to learn, or to make an effort to learn to do the right thing. "The staff is the main issue because a lot of people want a job, but don't want to work. When you try to explain something to them, they want to tell you what they want to tell you, before they even listen to you. Also, the menu that I have is vast and diverse and some Jamaicans are not familiar with the menu or the products. They don't know what I am talking about, and that is a challenge at times."
Her management strategies come through her passion for food similar to a 'sergeant major' and a 'hell's kitchen', and that has worked for her for more than 11 years.
Defining success, the winner of several awards said: "I have had a vision, worked towards and accomplished it. My business is exactly how I envisioned it and it's rewarding."
Chin expressed passionately to Flair that sharing the knowledge that she has with people and lifting them from where they are to another level is what keeps her going. She also likes to entertain and so she incorporates Karaoke every Thursday at her Restaurant.
She also embraces the fact that it's a delight to have created a brand that is strong and is able to build on it, "I also have staff that have come a long way; some have been with me for 11 years, since the Farm Market. As long as we can keep our food quality, it's a success for me," she concluded.
Outside of work, Chin spends quality time at the beach, and enjoys listening to music - reggae, R&B, and Motown. "Every Sunday if I can, I go to the beach, sometimes Holywell, Negril, that shows a different side of Jamaica. When I am there, I feel the ocean's calm; it takes away from the stress of work. I like shrimp and oysters. I also enjoy Italian food and our own Jamaican curried chicken and oxtail." she ended excitedly.