It was a warm afternoon in a just as warm kitchen when Good News Jamaica sat with self proclaimed Master Chef Colin Bruce. We were in his recent New Kingston acquisition, NK Deli. His company, Food Delite owns the Deli along with two other locations in Kingston. One of these locations happens to be at the U.S. Embassy. As he prepares a grilled chicken breast salad his love for food was evident. Bruce could be considered somewhat of a modern day
superhero. His kitchen would be his lair and chef knife his weapon of choice. All to help advocate for a change in the way Jamaicans experience food at an affordable cost.
“I don’t believe in just cooking up some food and give to people because you are what you eat.” Bruce says. “One of the vision and general direction of Food Delite is to help with the society’s health…too many persons are living with chronic lifestyle illnesses and it’s because of how you eat.” He had to learn that over time as most of his childhood meals did not include vegetables, protein or fibre.
Bruce, like many other entrepreneurs, had an early start in the world of business. He and his mother sold produce in the Christina market, but young Bruce wanted more. He joined a ‘partna plan‘ that yielded enough revenue to purchase a handcart. “It was like owning your own taxi.” He recalled.
When it got financially difficult for his mother to provide for him and his 5 siblings on her own, he went to live with his father. Bruce quickly realized it was no better with his father. One day after a particularly heated disagreement with him, Bruce had to leave at the tender age of 15. But fate had greater opportunities for young Bruce who moved to Kingston soon after. Even with this difficult start he found his purpose in food and is committed to creating a legacy from it.
As the Founder and Director of Food Delite, Bruce’s interest in Culinary Arts came to him in a serendipitous encounter. “I came to Kingston in 1989 on a one way bus from Christina in pursuit of a boxing career.” He says. Having nowhere to stay, he eventually found residence on an aunt’s floor for 3 months. “I got into food when I began working as a janitor with an Executive Chef who operated the Senior Common Room (now Visitor’s Lodge) at UWI Mona.” That was my baptism into the culinary world.
From its inception in 2001, Food Delite’s mission is to provide healthy meals for his customers. Bruce wants them to have a delightful experience out of an ordinary luscious meal. Now operating restaurants, canteen concessionaires and catering services he sees how his food is positively affecting lives. A case in point is a customer losing 20lbs by sticking to Food Delite’s wellness diet. His mother who ails from lifestyle diseases almost never have to take her insulin when he cooks for her. This was further proof that his purpose was to do more than cook but to heal through nourishment. A healthy people makes a healthy nation.
The Give Back
The Master Chef, mentor and humanitarian recently penned a book about his journey and experiences titled ‘From Handcart To CEO‘. He hopes the book will serve as inspiration for young entrepreneurs. The ones who might not consider Jamaica as a viable place to be successful. Many years, three locations and several concessionaire contracts later, Bruce is grateful for his humble beginnings. Some of his clients are Jamaica Money Market Brokers(JMMB), Student’s Loan Bureau (SLB), and the Bank Of Jamaica (BOJ).
Although he has yet to travel outside of Jamaica, his new line of products will. The line will include seasonings, sauces, frozen foods and water. These items will soon be available on the U.S. and Cayman markets he shares exclusively with Good News Jamaica. Food Delite is set to become a 3 billion dollar company with this expansion in the next 3 years. Bruce sees this as positively affecting Jamaica’s GDP, providing more employment and a guiding light for aspiring business owners.
The Next Delite
Even with all these plans he acknowledges the importance of fulfilling his social responsibility. The now defunct Swallowfield homework centre benefited from his benevolence for many years. He provided up to 60 hot, healthy meals every Saturday for the centre. He recalls one morning a young boy obliviously reminding him why he loves what he does. “Sir what you put in the franks and bean?… I said the only other ingredient [apart from franks and beans] is love.” After his stint with Swallowfield, he became the main meal provider for the Dunoon Manning Cup team for 2 years. Currently, Bruce has plans to do more in his native Christina community. He is in dialogue with the community and business leaders to execute these plans.
With so many things on his plate, Bruce still finds time to pursue other interests. He has made notable strides based on his passion and experience in Culinary Arts all with no formal education. He managed the Farquharson Hall cafeteria at the University Of Technology (UTECH) and trained students from the School of Hospitality. While there, he also lectured at the Centre Of Arts for a summer. In like manner, the programme did so well the participants were featured on Grace Kitchen’s ‘Creative Cooking’.
When asked what’s next for Colin and Food Delite, he insists on sharing his wealth of experience and knowledge. “After Food Delite, I really want to be training and do speaking engagements in schools and communities.” He tells Good News Jamaica. The Scotia Bank vision achiever is a testament to resilience and the many lotus flowers that continue to flourish in Jamaica. “Be positive and surround yourself with positivity. Live for others and always dream big.”