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Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant a reality after more than 16-year journey

Published:Sunday | August 6, 2023 | 12:07 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer
Mark Sutherland (left), vice-president, Express Caterings and Executive Chef, Dwayne Bell of Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant.
Mark Sutherland (left), vice-president, Express Caterings and Executive Chef, Dwayne Bell of Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant.
Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant, now open in the Sangster International Airport departure concourse.
Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant, now open in the Sangster International Airport departure concourse.

The Lion of Judah sits atop the herb garden being created in the airport.
The Lion of Judah sits atop the herb garden being created in the airport.
The old VW that Bob Marley drove when he was alive is now a part of the Bob Marley experience at the Sangster International Airport.
The old VW that Bob Marley drove when he was alive is now a part of the Bob Marley experience at the Sangster International Airport.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

In the heart of Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, a long-cherished dream has come to life: Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant.

This remarkable establishment is the culmination of a journey that began more than 16 years ago when Ian Dear and his Margaritaville Caribbean Group proposed a historic collaboration with the Marley family.

Recalling those early days, Ian Dear, the chief executive officer and chairman of Express Catering, shared the story with The Sunday Gleaner. He reminisced about the time when he first engaged with the Marleys – Rita, Cedella, and Ziggy. Their shared vision took form through a presentation that vividly outlined the immersive experience guests would encounter at the restaurant. The Marley family’s enthusiasm for the concept was palpable; they were captivated by the idea.

Yet, as the initial meeting concluded, a sense of responsibility loomed over Dear and his team. “On reflection, we didn’t feel we could do justice to Bob,” Dear admitted. The weight of capturing the essence of the King of Reggae in a dining experience was a task they took seriously. They held a deep respect for Bob Marley’s significance not just for Jamaica, but for the world at large. This reverence led them to a tough decision: while the Marleys weren’t initially thrilled that they weren’t ready to proceed, they understood the sincerity behind the choice.

Over the years, their friendship endured, with Ziggy Marley and his family making visits and sharing dinners with Dear. The discussions with Cedella Marley, an esteemed advocate for Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz football team, continued intermittently. However, it was the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that spurred a pivotal moment. With determination, Dear reached out to Cedella. “Cedella, I think we are ready now,” he declared. Her response echoed with confidence: “You ready, we ready.”

The journey to transform this vision into reality was not without its challenges. The Marley family and Express Catering navigated a year marked by the pandemic to finalise a deal that signified a true partnership. Amid global uncertainties, they inked a contract that symbolised their commitment to honouring Bob Marley’s legacy.

RESOUNDING APPROVAL

Now, as the doors of Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant have swung open for the first time, it is met with resounding approval from both Jamaican locals and visiting tourists. The space is more than a restaurant: it’s a sanctuary of Bob Marley’s memory, a vivid museum adorned with his memorabilia, album covers, images, and even the iconic Volkswagen bus he once drove. Each corner is a testament to his indelible impact.

For Dear, this response is deeply meaningful. “We’re trying to represent the essence of Bob Marley and all the great things that he represents as Jamaica’s global icon,” he shared. The Express Catering chairman is confident that they’re steering in the right direction, with the restaurant’s retail aspect further enriching the experience.

As patrons savour the delectable Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine, they’re also invited to witness the harmony of the restaurant’s team singing One Love, an anthem that continues to resonate across generations.

Some 70 new people have been employed to the facility, Express Catering’s vice president, Mark Sutherland, told The Sunday Gleaner, while standing under the large herb tower which has seated on its top, the Lion of Judah. “As you know, Bob liked his herb, so we created a herb tower, which is going to be the centre of most of what we see being grown on the outside.”

The idea is to give customers and authentic experience from the first two levels, having real herbs such as Scotch bonnet pepper, basil, thyme, lemon grass and escallion which will be grown in the tower.

A sound lounge is to come, and several televisions are in place ready to provide entertainment.

Sutherland said they received a lot of feedback from the Marley family, and Rita wanted a mud lamp. “One thing that they wanted to emphasise was the local farmer and the local produce.”

This is just the beginning of their journey, an exciting chapter that promises expansion beyond the shores of Jamaica to the global stage, Dear promises.

The underlying theme of partnership is equally significant, and the CEO was quick in recognising MBJ Airports Limited for their role in encouraging investment.

The restaurant’s impact extends beyond the culinary realm; it’s a testament to collaboration with the Jamaican people and stakeholders from around the world, Dear concluded, while adding that in celebrating the past, Bob Marley’s One Love Restaurant is also writing a new chapter in the ongoing story of Jamaica’s cultural legacy, one that began 17 years ago, full of dreams and determination.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com