She has walked the walk, been there and done that, and for her outstanding lifetime contribution to the tourism sector in Belize, Elvia Staines received this year’s highest recognition from the Belize Tourism Board; The Lifetime Achievement Award. To celebrate her accomplishment, Staines invited her family, members of the community, several public figures and even the Prime Minister, Honorable Dean Barrow to dinner on Friday, May 8th where she thanked all those who have played a vital role in the success story of the world’s famous Elvi’s Kitchen.
Staines was born in San Pedro and has been living on the island her entire life. A proud mother of six children, Doña Elvia as she is affectionately known, married Enrique Staines Sr. and ventured into the food industry. From the very humble beginnings of her Burger Isle take-out in 1974, the Staines family has turned Elvi’s Kitchen into an internationally known establishment.
Elvi’s Kitchen started about 35 years ago as a “takeout” establishment where the business started operation from a small window downstairs the Staines’ family house. “I have always loved to cook,” said Doña Elvia adding that, “after cooking for me, my family and friends, I decided to open a small takeout restaurant.” That small Burger Isle takeout operated with a small menu of finger licking fries and burgers and soft drinks for about five years after which more items were added to the menu. As the establishment grew, many changes came along. From operating with a small staff of five and operating as a takeout place, the staff grew to 25 and operated an enclosed area under the famous flamboyant tree in the Staines’ yard. In 1986, Burger Isle was renamed to Elvi’s Kitchen.
On December 18th, 1996, Elvi’s Kitchen, a twenty year old San Pedro restaurant, was awarded the International Gold Star Award for Excellence and Quality. Almost 13 years later, the proprietor of Elvi’s Kitchen received the highest national award for her generous and countless contributions to the growth of the tourism industry in Belize. Today, with 60% of the menu featuring local dishes, Elvi’s Kitchen is amongst the top dining places on Ambergris Caye.
On Friday evening, members of the community joined the Staines family to dine in honor of Doña Elvia and her wonderful staff, who has contributed to the success of Elvi’s Kitchen. In his address to the crowd, Prime Minister Barrow stated that, “this moment has to be the joy of the entire family of San Pedro.” PM Barrow went on to say that, “truly Mrs. Elvia, you are one of San Pedro proudest possessions,” stating that, “I am indeed impressed with the story behind the story of Elvi’s Kitchen; it is an award that is extremely deserving.”
Minister of Tourism Honorable Manuel Heredia joined Doña Elvia in presenting five of her staff members with awards for their years of dedicated service to Elvi’s Kitchen. The delicious tropical drinks and smoothies enjoyed at Elvi’s Kitchen have been prepared by Emil Lisbey for 13 years and for his dedication, he was awarded. Chef Angel Cocon was awarded for his 14 years of service. Also awarded was Amparo “Mrs. Ampi” Gutierrez who has served Elvi’s Kitchen for 19 years as administrator. Betty Pacheco has been in the kitchen for 20 years, since the Burger Isle days, and was also presented with an award. For her 35 years of service, since day one, Lily Kumul was the fourth person to be awarded. Doña Elvia’s youngest daughter, Chef Jennie Staines was also recognized for her contribution to the growth of Elvi’s Kitchen.
The Lifetime Achievement Award has a very special significance. The circle represents the Coat of Arms of Belize and also represents the earth. The line in the middle, half of the circle creates the map of Belize. The splash on the floor represents the water of life. The 27 gold colored leaves around the circle, represents the 27 years of Belize’s independence. The beautiful art piece is carved from four different wood, zericote, black and white mangrove and drifted cedar.