Maralyn and Albert Gill celebrated the first anniversary of their restaurant Rasta Pasta Pizza Amor at the SunBreeze Hotel on November 14th, 1998. Their restaurant has become one of the favorites among visitors and residents of the island. Internationally, the word is spreading about the restaurant's excellent food, outstanding service and wonderful atmosphere.
Maralyn Gill hails from Encino, California where she grew up and worked in many fields. She was a clothing designer by trade and a conference coordinator. She designed clothes for the back-up singers of the Grateful Dead. She married and moved to Mexico where she received training in cooking. Her marriage did not work out and she moved back to the U.S. where she met Albert in Eugene, Oregon where he was playing in a reggae band.
Albert Gill is a Belizean who was raised by a single parent on the south side of Belize City. He attended Wesley Methodist School and after graduating he trained to become a mechanic and worked in that profession for two years. He then worked as a messenger for six years. From 1972 to 1974 he was singing with the Morgan Impressions and also for Lord Rabon. In 1974 he decided to go on his own and left for Eugene, Oregon where he met Maralyn. They moved to Los Angeles, California where Albert became a certified mechanic and worked there for six years. In 1989, Maralyn made her first visit to Belize to get to know Albert's home country.
With very little personal possessions and money, Maralyn and Albert arrived in Belize in 1991 with their three children and a cat named "Mouse." This was when they started their unique business venture with Genesis in the Jungle, their spice and wine business. Here in Belize, a friend of theirs offered their farm in Lucky Strike Village for them to stay in. Maralyn and Albert had dabbled with spices when they lived in the United States and when they moved to the farm, that dabbling became their living.
"We lived among the jungle," said Maralyn. "There was no electricity or running water; there was only a well where we drew water from." Maralyn and Albert combined their knowledge of spices and started selling their original recipes on a table outside their house. Their first package of spice was the Belizean chicken seasoning, recado, and they later added the chimole spices, the jerk seasoning and the Belizean blackening spices. The recado they use is prepared by a family in the Succotz Village in the Cayo District and other ingredients are grown by families in Lucky Strike Village. "We support the local people and want the money to stay in Belize," said Maralyn. "We hire single mothers and young people because they are the ones who need the most help."
The Gills also started producing several delicious, homemade wines. Their wines offer a delectable and unique array of flavors such as, citrus, sea grape, coconut, cassava, plantain, craboo, sweet potato, watermelon, soursap, cashew and just about any other fruit they can get their hands on. Albert explained that they are proud of the wines they make, because they are much better than other Belizean wines. He lets them sit for a year and tastes them every month to see what they need. After one year the wines are crystal clear and not cloudy.
Their spices and wines became popular throughout the village and even the tour guides around the area used to take tourists to the Gill's home to sample their spices and wines. "After a while I got tired of living without electricity and running water," said Maralyn. "Living on the farm had its good times and its bad times. But after a while I just could not take much more of it."
The Gill's decision was to move to San Pedro. Once on the island, Maralyn started working at the Lagoon Restaurant and Albert started playing at the Sunset Bar, above the restaurant. Working at the restaurant allowed the Gills to promote their spices and wines with the help of their children Victoria, Robbie, and Shanti. Presently, Shanti is 21 years old, Robbie is 20 years old and a dive master working at the Belize Yacht Club and Victoria is now 15 years old and attending San Pedro High School.
Maralyn worked at the Lagoon Restaurant for about a year and a half and then took a big risk. "That is the name of the game, risky," stated Maralyn. "We took this giant risk and invested in the Playador Hotel's Restaurant with the money we had saved." The name of their restaurant was "Rasta Pasta Pizza Amor." With their excellent food, staff and management, the restaurant did exceptionally well. "I have been very busy ever since," commented Maralyn. "We had people waiting in line outside the restaurant wanting to dine at our establishment." The Gills managed the restaurant at the Playador Hotel for six months and then moved the restaurant to its new location at the SunBreeze Hotel a year ago.
Rasta Pasta Pizza Amor and the Genesis Bar are located on the beachfront overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the pool of the hotel. "The name of the restaurant has very little to do with the food in our menu," said Maralyn laughing. "Other than pasta, we offer a wide variety of other dishes. We have a natural approach to cooking and feature chicken, fish and seafood, no beef or pork. Our partially vegetarian menu is very unique. We avoid cooking all the food with animal fats, even our daily baked, fresh breads. We have a fun and eclectic menu." All the recipes are Maralyn's.
The Gills and the 23 employees of Rasta Pasta take great pride in themselves for providing exceptional service to their customers. "My staff is mostly comprised of young 'kids' and single parents and this is because I think that they are the ones that we should give a chance to," said Maralyn. "I also contact the Center of Employment Training to hire troubled teens. We all work together and help them straighten up their lives." Maralyn stated that giving these kids a chance is the only way that we can truly help them.
Rasta Pasta opens its door at six thirty in the morning and does not close until nine thirty in the evening. In the mornings at the Genesis Bar, you can enjoy delicious fruit juices and refreshing drinks to start the day off right. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights you can enjoy fine dining along with live entertainment by the talented Albert Gill and the Roots Rockers. They are probably the only pure reggae band in the country. Albert has also recorded his own album named, "Tribute to a King," which contains original compositions of his music.
"If it is not fun, we should not be doing this," said Maralyn. "I do not think that I would be doing this for all this time now if it wasn't fun. We are a great big family and we try to treat our customers like family. That is what it's all about." Funny enough, all the employees call Maralyn "mom" and have come to love her like a mother.
The Gills have certainly made a good impression on San Pedro and the tourists. Maralyn mentioned that Rasta Pasta has become very popular among the tourists and that many have come to know about it before arriving to the island. The Gill's famous spices and wines are available at the Rasta Pasta Pizza Amor Restaurant and they offer free wine tasting at the Genesis Bar everyday. The first anniversary of the restaurant was celebrated with plenty of good food, music and a beach party. They celebrated all the hard work that they have done in order to establish a reputable business. Both have gone through great hardships and have proved that with a lot of heart and determination anything is possible. Happy Anniversary Rasta Pasta and family!
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