Chef Garfield: A Genesis in Queens
CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS is the eighth of a 12-part series looking at Jamaicans who have excelled in the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area's entertainment and leisure industry.
GARFIELD Clarke's commitment to keep his family fed surpassed expectations with the opening of Genesis, a go-to restaurant for lovers of Jamaican food in New York City.
It is the norm for top Jamaican and rap acts to go to the Queens eatery for anything from curried goat to jerked chicken and steamed fish. Deejays Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks and Shaggy, as well as rappers Bizz Markie and LL Cool J, are regulars at Genesis.
Chef Garfield, as Clarke is popularly known, is in his early 50s. He told the Jamaica Observer that the key to his restaurant's success is simple: An accomodating staff and the best in Jamaican cuisine.
"I'm in a diverse community. One thing I can say about my restaurant is that it's a very warm and welcoming place and that is why I think whenever someone enters they decide to come back another time," he said.
Genesis caters to a clientele that includes hospitals, schools, barbers, beauty salons and nursing homes.
"We deliver to our customers up until 9:00 pm. We have loyal customers that order their lunches, dinners and we have even catered their special functions such as weddings, Sweet 16 and holiday parties," Clarke disclosed.
Clarke wanted to own a restaurant for himself since the 1970s when he was a dishwasher at Oriental Restaurant in Tropical Plaza in Kingston.
Later, he moved to the Flamingo Hotel where he learned the ropes as a cook, before moving on to Courtleigh Manor Hotel and then the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
With this experience under his belt, Clarke migrated to the United States in 1979 and soon landed a job at the United Nations.
"While at the United Nations, I started to do my own catering side jobs out of the Q Club in Jamaica, Queens. My dream was to be my own boss," he recalled. "After buying my first home in Brooklyn, I saved up my money and opened (Genesis) at 162-23 Hillside Avenue in Jamaica in 1997."
After the Q Club closed, Clarke concentrated full-time on Genesis, which has become a landmark in the Big Apple's West Indian community.
Born in Clarendon, Garfield Clarke attended St Ann's High School in Kingston. While he is best known for Genesis, his New Year's Eve ball in Queens is also a popular draw.
Despite his success, Clarke has no desire to expand his business.
"I have to make ensure this restaurant is held to the standard I need it to be at and I would not be able to do it if I had to my stretch myself thin between various locations," he said.