Passion for food becomes a dream for restaurateur Steve Myers

While he was a child living in Junction, St Elizabeth, Steve Myers was a fan of his grandmother’s cooking.

A curious Steve would pay keen attention to her recipes, which would later become the framework for his future in food.

“My interest in food was sparked by my grandmother’s cooking for the family each day. I had no formal training in food, and what I learnt from my grandmother is what has taken me this far. So pretty much, I learnt along the way,” Myers shared in an interview with the Jamaica Observer in Orlando, Florida, recently.

Myers is the proprietor of the Negril Jamaican Restaurant which has two locations in Orlando, one in Pine Hills and the other on S Kirkman Road. He got into the restaurant business 18 years ago.

“At first when I migrated to America I was a truck driver for a few years, doing delivery for restaurants and hotels. At the time, I was living in Miami. One day, a good friend of mine who is Jewish said that if there’s something that I needed to do one day, I should get into the food business. Years later, I considered his suggestion and that led me to opening my very first restaurant,” said Myers.

The first Negril Jamaican Restaurant was opened in 2005 and since then there has been no turning back for Myers.

“It took a lot of investment to get the business off the ground. I practically used up all of my life savings. It was very hard financially. Working 18 hours a day and doing everything without an employee. It took me three years to get staff in place,” Myers recalled.

Today, his staff complement totals more than 30 employees between both restaurants. All are Jamaican.

Myers said his restaurant targets a wide range of customers.

“We target multicultural people. We have African Americans, Caucasians, Chinese, Indians, Latinos, and even Europeans who support our business. We’ve had politicians dining here, celebrities, and sports personalities passing through,” said Myers.

Dancehall artistes Shenseea, Future Fambo, and Serani; National Basketball Association player Courtney Lee; and singer Dexta Daps supported the restaurant.

Asked how he keeps the Jamaican authenticity as far as the meals are concerned, Myers said: “We keep the authenticity in our dishes by using traditional Jamaican recipes. Our jerk chicken is very authentic, and it is done around the back on a grill.

“We also have easy access to food items such as sweet potato, dasheen, plantain and other food staples. We have easy access to the Jamaica suppliers and companies who import these items from the Caribbean. The supplies are consistent,” Myers explained.

Asked what keeps his customers coming back, Myers said “Our authentic Jamaican food and our prices. We do a lunch special each day from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and when you come here, the place is crowded.”

“I love to see people smile. That’s what keeps me motivated, it keeps me going. I love to put a smile on people’s faces, and I am very hands on with the business. If my chef is out sick, I jump in and prepare the food,” Myers reasoned.

Negril Jamaican Restaurant has been featured in the Orlando Sentinel for its contribution to the community. The restaurant has also been the recipient of several awards from the business community.

Myers is keen on giving back to the community, has done annual treats for children, and also got involved in initiatives to assist the elderly.

His future plans include the expansion of his business.

“My plan is to take over the whole of Central Florida (Orlando) with more restaurant locations,” he said.

Negril Jamaican Restaurant was a sponsor of the recently held Bellevue Music Festival, which was promoted by Portland native Byron Somers. Myers said his involvement in events has helped to raise the profile of the restaurant.

“We did the VIP area at the Bellevue Music Festival. We have done the West Palm Beach and Orlando Jerk Festivals as well as the Orlando Carnival. Our banner is out there at these events, and it gives us a lot of recognition. We also have our food truck at these events, so participating in events like these drives business to us,” said Myers.