“I started off with a food truck. Now I have three restaurants. All because Ascendus gave me that first loan.”
Ernie always had a passion for food, it is what led him to becoming a top chef in Jamaica. When Ernie left Jamaica to pursue more opportunities in America, he began working as a chef at the New England Aquarium in Seaport. Seaport is a wealthy and tourist centered neighborhood, but it was lacking something Ernie thought was important: Jamaican food. “I wanted to put Jamaican food on the map and show that it could be on the same gourmet level as all the other restaurants there.”
Ernie learned to cook from his grandmother who would create huge meals on Sundays for him and his family. Those meals are what made him feel safe, comfortable, and a closeness to home. In Boston, Ernie missed those feelings. “Walking around Seaport there was no Jamaican food, I would leave on my lunch break and wish that there was just one thing that reminded me of home.”
FROM FOOD TRUCK TO MULTIPLE RESTAURANTS
Through a $10,000 Ascendus loan Ernie opened a food truck, Jamaica Mi Hungry, and brought Jamaican home cooking to Boston. “Through this food truck I could begin transforming the idea of Jamaican food from something only experienced on vacation to something that was seen as gourmet and accessible.” Ernie’s Ascendus loans gave him the foundation for what has now become a Jamaican restaurant chain in Boston, and Jamaica Mi Hungry has expanded from one food truck to three restaurants. These restaurants add a new food scene and cultural experience to Boston, and they also bring a sense of home to the Jamaican immigrants in the neighborhood. “It is a staple for our community. They really missed Jamaican cooking, and this allowed them to experience that sense of home again.”
In 2021, Ernie reached out to Ascendus again to help with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. He needed capital to cover bills, a damaged water system, rent, and payroll. Through a $50,000 loan from Ascendus, Ernie kept the doors of his restaurants, and his food truck, open.
THE FUTURE OF JAMAICA MI HUNGRY
Since receiving his second loan, Ernie has taken advantage of the services Ascendus has to offer by working with our loan consultants monthly to receive technical assistance and financial guidance on running a small business. “I am so grateful for the help that Ascendus has given me.”
Ernie also gives back to the community by providing jobs and internship opportunities. “In Seaport, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of young Black men and women working there, I wanted to change that.” Ernie works as a mentor, providing countless growth and training sessions to his staff. With his guidance they can also become leaders in their community.
Ernie’s most recent branch of his restaurant is now in Seaport, right near the aquarium where he first started working when he moved to America. “Looking back, I never would have dreamed that I would make this happen. When I was on my lunch breaks in Seaport, all I wanted was a place with Jamaican food. Now, I made that happen.”
To learn more about Ernie, visit: https://www.jamaicamihungry.com/