AS BAJAN AS FLYING FISH: Woman on top
MY NAME IS ANGELA GARROWAY-HOLLAND and I’m a hotel executive chef. I grew up in Sargeants Village, Christ Church. But now I live near Oistins. Sargeants was fun. We had real community spirit, lots of neighbours to depend on. We had village life. Most of my family lived there. My two uncles, aunts, first cousins. The mall wasn’t built up at that time, just the supermarket. It was called JB’s Master Mart but it was still JB’s. I went to Pine Primary and Garrison Secondary. I thought school was fun. I liked studying. I really enjoyed history and English literature. I love to read. Now I’m into a lot of health books and magazines. I love the gym and I love exercising. That’s my relaxation. Every morning, around 4:30 a.m., I go to Miami Beach for an hour of intense walking and running, then have a little swim around quarter to six. I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last year. There’s nothing like feeling healthy. I have two brothers, two sisters and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. My grandmother had nine children. I have one son, whose name is Rachaun. He’s 12 and going to Deighton Griffith. I was raised Pentecostal all my life. I go to church. I spend a lot of time at work and honestly think God has given me the strength to work long hours – a minimum of ten and usually 12 to 14 hours a day – so I think that’s a way to give back and be thankful. It’s very difficult to reconcile a caring, powerful God with things like the earthquake in Haiti but I still believe. In life, stuff happens. I believe, if there wasn’t a God, it would have been worse. There’s still life, there’s still hope. The mere fact that you’re breathing and can look outside, you should believe there’s a God. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God. God believes in you. I really wanted to become a dietician. I went seeking ways to pursue my dream at the Samuel Jackman Polytechnic but I wasn’t successful and tried Barbados Community College’s Hospitality Institute. I had my mother telling me, “Hey, you ain’t sitting down at home and just relax!” I needed to start somewhere. I didn’t have any friends or family that were chefs, didn’t know anyone in the industry. So I wasn’t au fait with anything! But I gave it a try and it fit. I did the entire two-year programme, food & beverage, but I always liked the back of the house. I’m not really a smiley person. I love cooking. You must have a natural passion for it. It’s not an easy job. It’s time-consuming. You spend a lot of hours on your feet. You have to do a lot of spontaneous thinking and long-term planning as well, and you have to be proactive, before things happen. Being an executive chef is stressful. You need to cook with love, have to have a passion for what you do. I don’t think it’s stressful at all, because I love it. An executive chef is responsible for the day-to-day kitchen management: planning menus, costing, budgeting, payroll, human resource – executive chefs hire and fire – restaurant and food marketing, safety, making sure the food is not only edible but safe. Safety comes even before taste. Most of my time is spent at my desk. I spend a lot of time costing, trying to buy reasonable, good quality stuff, meeting with the Banqueting department, meeting clients, responding to numerous emails constantly. I really want more local food on our menus. Right now, we have some all-Bajan dishes. We really underestimate our spinach and breadfruit. International chefs come and steal our food and make something big out of it, like how our coconut water is being promoted in the United States ahead of Gatorade. They have it in Tetra Paks on the outside market but we take it for granted. When it’s crunch time, I’m definitely hands on in the kitchen. Some days I say, “No more office! Let me get into the operation!” But, basically, the more successful you become as an executive chef, the further away you get from the kitchen. This is a male-dominated field. A female has to prove herself over and over again. It could be de-motivating. Most hoteliers prefer a male. The bias is still very plain.The bad thing about the job is you’re sometimes not able to meet your budget perimeters. If we have unhappy guests, that’s a low point. Food business is hard. You might like it with a little Scotch bonnet but the other person would say the meal is not good. The joyous part of the job is having customers who repeatedly come and say they’ve enjoyed the facility and the meal. That, and seeing the progress of the over 102 team members I’m in charge of, seeing them raise their standard, get promoted, progress. A Bajan is a person born in Barbados that has a natural rhythm and a bubbly personality. It’s not put on. We love to smile, even though things are hard. Barbados is not only for me but for my children and my children’s children. I love the culture and the food. Except pudding ’n’ souse.