|Owner of the great JamBel's Jerk Pit, Fitzgerald Brown, is also an avid sports fan who gives unselfishly to the sports, especially football. |
Ambergris Caye is considered the Mecca of Belize’s tourism. To live up to this, the services offered on “La Isla Bonita” must meet visitors’ expectations. Without a doubt, the cuisine plays a vital part of a 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 any of the Food Network’s television series. 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, on the beach next to Big Daddy’s. 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 nine years have passed since JamBel’s first opened its doors to the public and still Fitzgerald continues to move forward.
In 2004, Fitzgerald moved to a better location – on Barrier Reef Drive – on the first floor of the Coral Beach Hotel. With an even bigger space, JamBel’s can now accommodate an even bigger crowd. New to the restaurant, is the inclusion of Buffet Wednesdays, where a wide variety of delicious choices are sold. Among the many choices is the all time favorite and popular “Jamaica Mi Crazy Shrimp”, Jerk Chicken and Pork, Coconut Curry Chicken, Jerk Tomato Pasta, Rosemary Potatoes, a variety of veggies, fruits and desserts. “Eat until your belly busts,” is what JamBel tries to accomplish with every patron on Wednesdays.
Aside from having the first floor serve as the restaurant, Coral Beach’s second and third floor boast 17 rooms that Fitzgerald manages. Each room is air conditioned, with hot and cold water, television, and private baths. “Being right in the center of town, and having affordable prices, the hotel is very successful,” he comments.
As if running a successful restaurant and hotel wasn’t enough, Fitzgerald embarked on yet another new business venture. On December 31st, 2006, New Year’s Eve, Club Déjà Vu, formerly Barefoot Iguana re-opened its doors to the general public. With new blood, and entirely great renovations, Déjà Vu is ready to rock the island. Along with partner, Brian Paulino, the details have been worked out and Déjà Vu will shake the island starting on Mondays when they feature After Shock Hours; Wednesday is Girl’s Night Out; Thursday will be 2 for 1 Reggae Nights, while on Saturdays Club Déjà Vu will feature Jam Rock and Sundays will be everyone’s favorite – Karaoke Night.
“The club has been closed for a while now, I know it is a great hangout spot and with the whole new renovations and the ones we plan to make in the future (including a fiberglass dance floor which will include lights and TV screens) I am certain that this spot can be the ‘it’ spot again,” Fitzgerald commented.
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 has sponsored many teams and youth based activities.
Fitzgerald Brown says that he has found his home here. “I am very thankful to everyone who has supported me in my endeavors. This is my home now, I am staying here and working towards the betterment of the island,” 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.”