Ambergris Caye is considered the "Mecca" of tourism in Belize. To live up to this, the services offered in "La Isla Bonita" must meet visitors' expectations. Without a doubt, the cuisine plays a vital part of vacation when people are visiting a different country. In order to satisfy so many individual palates, selection is important. San Pedro Town is fortunate to boast an international variety of restaurants including Italian, Thai, Mexican, and Lebanese - all worthy of being featured on the television series "Great Chefs of the World." This week The San Pedro Sun is pleased to feature a person who has brought a taste of exquisite Jamaican cuisine to the island - Fitzgerald Brown.
Fitzgerald was born on October 31st, 1964 in the land where reggae music is like a heartbeat to its residents - Montego Bay, Jamaica. His parents, Pearl Henry and Vincent Brown were hardworking people who instilled true family values in their children from an early age. As a young child, Fitzgerald lived a carefree life in the paradise he knew as home and attended Munro High School in St. Elizabeth and then Knox Community College. Employed as a store clerk for four years, Fitzgerald observed more and more tourists traveling to Jamaica and felt he needed to move to another place that was not so crowded. He went in search of a less populated place and discovered Belize in August of 1990. What was supposed to be a temporary visit became permanent as he fell in love with the country and decided to stay.
Arriving first in Belize City, Fitzgerald worked as a security guard for two years before moving to Ambergris Caye. Although he was quite content with his job in the city, he had bigger goals and felt these could be accomplished in San Pedro where job opportunities were more abundant. On Christmas Eve 1992, he was hired as a security guard at Journey's End Resort. Next, in an attempt to improve his lifestyle, Fitzgerald applied to be a waiter at the same resort and was hired. His friendly disposition and charisma soon gained him a promotion and he worked as the restaurant supervisor for the next two years. In order to excel in this part of the tourism industry, he attended a three-week food and beverage course in Belize City. This proved to be a smart move, since he was later promoted to Food and Beverage Manager at Journey's End.
This ambitious Jamaican turned Belizean did not stop there. He realized he now had the knowledge and capabilities to venture into his own business. Using all his savings to accomplish his goal, in September of 1998, Fitzgerald officially opened JamBel's Jerk Pit. Almost immediate success was achieved utilizing the perfect recipe - his grandmother's homemade cooking techniques combined with the Belizean cuisine he had grown to love so much. This unique Jamaican-Belizean ("JamBel") cuisine has attracted a large number of visitors and locals who now are able to experience the wonderful spicy flavor of Jamaican food without leaving the comfort of their homeland. Almost four years have passed since JamBel's first opened its doors to the public and still Fitzgerald continues to move forward. The business has expanded its seating capacity from fifteen to fifty and also increased its employee numbers. The restaurant's dÈcor depicts the legacy of Jamaican reggae idol Bob Marley and needless to say, the jovial reggae beats play as you enjoy your meal. One wall is a dedicated mosaic of Jamaica geography and history; a work of art by itself. When asked what was in store for the future, Fitzgerald Brown proudly told The San Pedro Sun that next week he will open JamBel's first branch restaurant in Belize City.
A sports fanatic, Fitzgerald gives unselfishly to these activities, in particular, football. Although he says he hardly ever has time to play himself, in the spirit of promoting healthy activities he donates to the cause, and most recently sponsored a JamBel's basketball team.
Fitzgerald Brown says that he has found his home here. He hopes to be able to find a piece of property where he can build a home and continue to serve the tourists and people of San Pedro. "I am very thankful to everyone who has supported me in my endeavors. I am especially thankful to my main cook, Celsa Benguche, who has been with me from the start," said Mr. Brown. Fortunately for the residents and visitors to San Pedro, Fitzgerald Brown has managed to implant a colorful and tasteful part of Jamaica in "Our Community."