A love for good food and an even deeper love for his beloved Barbados have propelled Barbadian Michael Springer on to the world stage of international cuisine.
Michael Springer was born to Barbadian parents in London in 1968 and went to Barbados at age ten. He gained a place at Combermere School and completed his formative education there until returning to the UK. On his return, he joined an insurance company as a clerk. Michael soon moved up the ranks and after promotion to managerial status he went independent and formed his own company.
Success seemed to stalk the young and ambitious Barbadian and the performances of his company were noticed by the International Insurance giant Zurich. Having liked what they saw, they bought the company and made Springer the Managing Director.
But, I wondered, how do you move from insurance to food? Was there a background other than a love for the stuff or was it simply a hunger that could only be satisfied by the taste to do something else successfully and different?
Let Springer take up the story: “One morning I woke, and in a moment of inspiration or madness, decided that I should satisfy a lifelong ambition to cook. I could not contain the urge and opened my first restaurant without much planning in Purley, Surrey dealing exclusively in Bajan dishes.”
Springer soon found that the business of offering Caribbean food for sale to the diaspora was littered with failures and that he would not be an exception. Sadly, he closed doors after two years and went back to the drawing boards. Determined to win the battle for success, he converted his garage into Commercial Kitchens and supplied take away dishes to the local community. In an effort to build his business he walked the streets and knocked on doors within a radius of three miles. He was now up and running.
Undaunted by the competition of other ethnic groups which were also catering in the take-away business, he would not be denied and, eager for success, he adopted part of his school motto ‘Up and On’ as motivation.
All angles were explored, and he entered the British TakeAway Awards Competition in 2016 in search of further exposure. There were some 35, 000 other competitors across the country and I suggested that his was merely a shot in the dark. “Surely so,” he agreed, but added, “It was an opportunity to promote Barbados food.”
For the televised final, Springer presented Bajan fish cakes with a bisque, strips of plantain to depict rocks on the west coast and a shot of sorrel and rum, all laid out on a banana leaf in the shape of the island. Success was still stalking him and he won the competition.
Consequent upon his victory, Big Mike, as he was now commonly known, was invited to do adverts with Bajan cuisine as the main feature on the popular and top rated TV show The X Factor. He said he was very proud to have received the opportunity and saw it as another way to promote Bajan food.
Big Mike had, by now, outgrown Commercial Kitchens and moved to the Jolly Farmer in Purley High Street as its resident chef. And now there appears to be no stopping Big Mike. He expects to open Big Mike’s Restaurant in November in Box Park, outside East Croydon Station in November.
I cannot wait!
Big Mike can be found at www.bigmikescalypsokitchen.co.uk or 07736443645
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired Land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and the disapora.