Remembering Winston Stona: The man behind Busha Browne
The man, the myth, the jerk seasoning legend, Winston Stona, refined and redefined the way others saw Jamaican flavours and sauces, introducing the international brand of luxury, better known as Busha Browne’s, for many to savour. Going above and...
The man, the myth, the jerk seasoning legend, Winston Stona, refined and redefined the way others saw Jamaican flavours and sauces, introducing the international brand of luxury, better known as Busha Browne’s, for many to savour. Going above and beyond the call of duty, Stona was definitely one to have at your dinner table. His palpable passion for culinary arts worked in tandem with his love for storytelling.
“The world has lost a food icon; not just Jamaica, the world.” This was the declaration from Chef Gariel Ferguson when he spoke to Food about the passing of Stona.
Chef Ferguson considered Stona to be his mentor, the one who was instrumental in shaping his career as a food connoisseur. The two met when Stona visited his restaurant, Rib Cage, in 1995. “It wasn’t through any formal introduction. He came to my restaurant and was a diner. So I went over to him and we got to talking,” the restaurateur said. The conversation started casually but quickly worked its way to being a wonderful friendship.
Acknowledging that Stona wore many hats, being a cultural icon in one breath and a stalwart in the tourism and entertainment industries in another, Ferguson explained that he was instrumental in helping to build his brand as a personal chef. “We would have sessions which discussed how I was doing, what’s happening, what’s going on in the world of jerk. And we also spoke about personal branding and how I would go about moving forward,” he shared.
Even though he was in the business of condiments and sauces, Stona would encourage Chef Ferguson to look at developing his own brand, “I’m glad he gave me that advice. He brought a lot of perspective to what I was doing as a young chef at the time. When it came to food, he was a role model for me. He was an icon, and I’m much better for knowing him.”
Reminiscing, Ferguson added, “It was always fascinating walking with him at a fancy food show, almost the equivalent of walking with royalty.”
The white wooly-haired Stona meant the world to so many because he gave his all to the world and those he held close and dear to his heart.
His niece, Robyn Fox, owner and operator of the popular EITS Cafe, recalled that her uncle was full of advice born out of years of experience in the food, tourism, fashion, and beverage industries.
“Passionate about food, he was instrumental in founding products such as Busha Browne’s that he knew had an international market. And he was tireless in promoting the local Jamaican producers of the raw ingredients that went into making some of the packaged goods,” Fox shared.
Instinctively, when it came to authentic ingredients and flavour, he infused that talent with his innate abilities in marketing. This, as a result, put him and Jamaican food products on the map overseas. “He made time to mentor the young who brought their ideas, which he was happy to help shape and develop. A remarkably selfless man,” she reflected.
“He was a trendsetter. An innovator. He basically put it (jerk) on the world map,” shared Christoper Boorman, director of Parang Industries Limited, which distributes Busha Browne’s.
Stona’s dear friend, culinary professional, and author, Helen Wilisky was heartbroken when she learnt of his passing. She explained that she had known him for most of her life, meeting him when she was around 15 years old. “My mother was in charge of the Jamaican Industrial Development Corporation, where she represented Jamaica in the Caribbean. Winston was one of the young men in the days who worked with her. When people think about Jamaica and Jamaican food, they see it through, Winston.”
The duo went on to work on a lot of trade shows together all over the United States when they were young. The states they visited include New York, California, Atlanta, and Washington. “People just gravitated toward and loved Winston. He was larger than life. And he brought all of these flavours from Busha, contributing so much to the nation’s development,” she said, adding that he was a storyteller and an ambassador for Jamaica.
She shared that they spoke six weeks ago and had a lovely conversation about him being back home. “He said to me, ‘The only place to live and come back to is home’. He was telling me about his coffee plantations. It’s the flavours, it’s the personality. And people lived in Jamaica through him.”
Noting that she took the necessary ingredients from Jamaica to create a taste profile for the American market, she revealed that it was her job and Winston’s job to take the Jamaican flavour, energy, and flair and translate it into food.
Sean Garbutt, marketing director of Associated Manufacturers Limited, which produces Busha Browne’s, met Stona in 2005. Of “Uncle Winny’s” Busha Browne’s legacy, he says: “Our plan is definitely to continue to honour him and celebrate him. We’ve actually been working over the last year and a half on a complete repackaging and rebranding for the Busha Browne’s line to reintroduce Jamaica to the new look and feel.” Noting that the market can expect the revamp at the end of the year Garbutt added, “The modern story of Busha Browne’s is very much focused on Winston.”
The voice, the energy, and the visionary that was Winston Stona will never be forgotten.