In the Bay Area, Oakland, California there’s a restaurant serving up Bajan and other West Indian cuisine to celebrities and others in the Diaspora.
And the woman behind it is Barbados’ own Sarah Kirnon.
Kirnon, one of California’s celebrated chefs, recently paid a courtesy call on Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy who invited her to be part of the Barbados Food, Wine & Rum Festival.
She owns and runs Ms Ollie’s, named after her maternal grandmother who raised her in Gall Hill, St John, before Kirnon migrated to the United Kingdom as a teenager and then later to the United States.
The restaurant has introduced generations of Californians to authentic Barbadian food and was recently featured on a US Emmy award-winning television show called Check, Please! which catapulted the popularity of the restaurant.
Sealy lauded Kirnon for carrying the Barbados flag high through her restaurant’s culinary offerings. He added that his Ministry had made a “conscious effort at pushing the epicurean and culinary aspects of the island”.
“I think it is fair to say that Barbados has a reputation, as Caribbean destinations go, for having that [culinary] cross-section. The Cliff restaurant has been named one of the best restaurants in the world at various stages and yet, you have Cuz who is very popular [among visitors to the island],” he said.
“We’ve been pushing that and that is why we actually started the Food Festival coming out of that. We rebranded it now as the Food, Wine & Rum Festival. I would like to take this opportunity now to invite you to be one of the featured chefs at our . We will enjoy having you here,” Sealy told Kirnon.
The chef, who said she would take up the Minister’s invitation in the near future, is also working on other projects to showcase West Indian and West African foods.
“I am working with the LA African American Museum to do an installation which will follow migration. My long-term goal is to follow migration from Africa to the Caribbean to the South, looking at the food and culture.
“At some point, they would want to come to Barbados to set up an installment [or museum] here. We are negotiating it still. This would be the best island to host a museum that looks at food and culture and slavery because [Barbados] is one of the first points of migration in slavery,” she shared.
Sealy said he thought it was a “fantastic project” and promised to visit the Bay Area and Ms Ollie’s at some point.