My community helped save my restaurant
By Ricky Bernard, as told to Ivy Scott
I love cooking, so this is easy work. A lot of people think running a whole restaurant is hard, but for me the hardest part is the grocery shopping. I grew up in a restaurant in Jamaica, so I’ve always been cooking. People tell stories of when I was little and I’d be crying for my mom ‘cause she was in the kitchen. Or she’d be cooking while I was on her hips, she’d have me in her arms and all that. And now I have my son and I’m basically doing the same thing with him.
I like cooking anything. My restaurant is not just Jamaican food. I can do Italian, Chinese, soul food, whatever I like. We’re in front of three high schools and the kids love our place. They come here every single day. And then every Sunday at my house, all my friends come over for dinner, bring their kids and everything. On the holidays, everybody comes to my house.
Being a Black restaurant owner is tough. If Black people don’t own any businesses, and if they don’t have any money to support Black businesses, the money only flows in one direction, and that’s away from our communities. We’re very lucky to have so much support from the community, especially during the pandemic. People were worried we would never reopen. But when we did, everybody came back day after day, putting up social media posts letting people know that the Jamaican restaurant is back open. That was nice. Made me feel good about doing what we do.
Ricky Bernard owns the Island House Restaurant in Providence.