The signs of hard economic times are everywhere particularly with very few businesses setting up shop and the once construction boom now at an all-time low here in Saint Lucia. The tourism sector has not been spared the ravages of global economic crisis—and even a number of restaurants, particularly in the populated area of Rodney Bay, have closed their doors. So what would drive someone, against this backdrop to risk it all, take all of their savings and bank it on a new restaurant concept, not in Rodney Bay, but in Soufriere? This is a question we put to Chef Orlando who in December of 2012 opened the doors of Orlando’s right on the main road as one enters the town.
“I am just a Chef on mission,” he says with a wide smile. “Call it a hunch, a risk but this is part of a bigger calling,” Orlando says ahead of our lengthy talk and a few tastings as well on his new venture. Hunch or not, so far this latest restaurant has been reaping rewards, not just for the owner but Saint Lucia and more particularly Soufriere, with the reviews from locals and visitors alike seemingly phenomenal.
So much so, that as of February 12, 2013 “TripAdvisor” had named Orlando’s the number one restaurant in Saint Lucia. During our interview last week with Orlando Satchell, the owner, the STAR asked about the name choice. This is what he had to say; “by conversation this is how many people know me and on top of that I want to develop a brand the “Orlando” or “O” brand. And if I may be a bit cheeky, the two most popular people in the world right now are Obama and Oprah,” he says laughing at his own sense of humour.
But in all sincerity Orlando says, he is convinced that people would start recognizing the name which he has built on through years working with other establishments and more recently the award winning Ladera resort in Soufriere at the Dasheen restaurant. His departure from Ladera to go it on his own he describes as a bigger plan. “I’d say to you that sometimes we have a plan and God has an even bigger plan. It was always on my mind to do something but before this it was not the right time. But more recently Ladera where I worked, changed management and I just decided it was time to get out of there. It took me about eight months to establish a location, but here I am now,” he explains. He went on to say that the cozy dwelling just before the Soufriere Bridge that has been transformed into a garden of serenity which he saw as an ideal location is now home.
“Again I would say I did not pick the location, it picked me. I was looking around for a spot and when I came and I saw this place straight away it jumped out at me and I saw how I could incorporate the courtyard and outdoor setting with the restaurant.” Despite the recognition of the restaurant in just three months, Chef Orlando told me that it has been a challenge, especially getting started from his own pocket. “It was a sort of uphill struggle. I had no equipment, no loan from the banks, nothing,” he revealed. Since starting up however, he informed us that some financial assistance from the bank has been forthcoming. Another question we decided to put to the world famous chef was why Soufriere?
“Everyone said to me, move to Castries to open up a restaurant and that Soufriere is far. I even got a place at one of the malls. But I said to myself, I have been in Soufriere for many years and everyone sells Saint Lucia globally and they sell the Pitons. And yet, everyone goes to Rodney Bay. This is the most beautiful part of the island, Soufriere. This is the heart of the nation. Anyone who comes here or who lives here, if you don’t come to Soufriere, you have not been to Saint Lucia. So it was easy for me to set up here and I know the community, I know the people so I decided to come to Soufriere where I now employ more than ten persons.” Not only is Orlando’s located in Soufriere but the restaurant which prides itself on using locally grown products, supports farmers and fishers from surrounding communities including fishermen from Soufriere and farmers from Belle Vue. Fresh from the organic gardens, farms and the waters of Saint Lucia, Orlando’s menu comprises Caribbean cuisine served under the “Ti Manje” signature, which is a five course tasty menu.
The menu features locally grown beef, pork and chicken as well as freshly caught fish. “All of this we prepare with lots of love under our STL theme (Share the Love) which involves good communication, good spirit, but ultimately “STL” with how we season our food. In the Caribbean we are known to season our food with love and that’s what we do here at Orlando’s,” he says beaming. The two set menus, comprise such dishes like Chef Orlando’s famous pumpkin soup, salads from organic leaves, beef seasoned with local cocoa, Mahi- Mahi served on a cabbage cake with turmeric sauce or chicken in cassava crust. For desert, rum chocolate tart is part of the specialty whilst fresh local fruit juices compliment each meal. Wines and other beverages are available as well. The restaurant is open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner and will soon be opening for breakfast, particularly on weekends. It is also available for the hosting of small private functions and recently hosted a wedding for a party of twenty.
Whilst the front open courtyard is the main set, another back-yard will soon be opened where guests can dine surrounded by growing herbs, spices and a few fruit trees. His long-term aim Orlando says, is to see that more tours, visitors and Saint Lucians stop in the town of Soufriere. “One of the things I would also love to be a part of is an opening season. I mean each year you hear of the season opening where tourism is concerned, yet there is nothing to mark this. What I would love, is for us to come together, the restaurants, tours, hotels, attractions, and stage this festivity with persons in the community to mark the opening of each season,” he expressed. The experienced Chef also told the STAR that his vision for Orlando’s is to develop a brand.
“From a Chef’s point of view I can’t be cooking food all my life, but I can create some sort of extension from my food, my restaurant, by what I do. And this brand has to be a brand of excellency that says when you come to Saint Lucia you are in the excellency of local flavors, you are in the excellency of local staff, you are in the excellency of the community and that’s where that concept has to go,” he says. Added to that, he wants to assist with training some of the many good cooks here into Chefs. Already he has used the restaurant to offer training not just to staff but persons in the community as well as students from the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School. Where staffing is concerned he says training is paramount. One of his adages in the industry is that “to serve one has to be served.”
To this end, as part of his staff development he takes his staff to various restaurants and hotels not just to treat them, but to allow for an understanding and appreciation of good service. The signature of Orlando’s the proprietor says has to be great service great food, “and a great atmosphere where we share the love.” “But not just great food but great West Indian food. “You go to France, the biggest cuisine is French, you go to Italy, Italian, so why can’t the main cuisine here be Caribbean?” he asks. “The problem is that we don’t take that interest in our own, but our chefs can be taught to be creative with what we have without losing the essence of what it is,” Orlando says, adding “and this is where Orlando’s stand proudly.” Orlando Satchell was born in Birmingham, England to West Indian parents and early in his life he dreamed of a career in the culinary arts. Graduating from culinary school in England, he spent several years in small hotels in Birmingham and London and has since worked in South Beach, Florida where he developed his skills in island cuisine.
Besides London and Florida he has also worked in Asia establishing the first West Indian restaurant in Singapore. In 1998 he became the Executive Chef of Dasheene Restaurant at the Ladera Resort where he has had the opportunity to share with many celebrities, including Bill Gates, David Bowie, Matt Damon, Conan O’Brien and many others. In February 2003, he debuted at the prestigious James Beard House in Manhattan, New York. Now with Orlando’s, which was opened in 2012, Chef Orlando’s magic is expected to continue to be spread through his food with just the right touch of Saint Lucian love.