Living in Slovenia, a country some 5,400 miles away from the island on which she was born, sprint queen Merlene Ottey laments that Jamaican food is one of the things she misses most. "The closest I get to Jamaican foods in Slovenia is when I make fried dumplings at home. The language is so different there that I wouldn't even know how to ask for the things I want and love, even if they were there," quips Ottey.
As major sponsors of the Ben Francis Invitational Meet, at which Ottey was recently honoured, GraceKennedy, under its brands Hi-Lo and sister company GKMS, through the brand Western Union, took the opportunity to fete the Olympian with the thing she missed most, some good Jamaican food. Representatives of the company took the Ottey family to Hellshire Beach to delight in lobster, fish and festival, (and of course some Grace Tropical Rhythms).
"Food is that staple upon which the GraceKennedy brand was built", comments Patria-Kaye Aarons, sponsorship and communications manager at Western Union. "It was only natural that we do what we are best known for and end the queen's visit by extending to her royal treatment."
"You definitely don't see this in Slovenia," Ottey expressed as she looked out at the calm Hellshire waters. "These are definitely the things I miss."
Next on the food tour was Hi-Lo Supermarket in Portmore Pines. There, personal shoppers attended to the sprint queen as she stocked up on supplies such as Grace canned ackees, callaloo and cup porridges to take with her back to Slovenia. A prepared Ottey advised that she carried a large empty extra piece of luggage just to bring back food. "Many days I have wanted to have ackee and breadfruit in Slovenia," she comments.
Aarons stated that this longing for home provides the very pillars upon which GraceKennedy's expansion strategy is built. "We are committed to satisfying the unmet needs of Caribbean people....wherever they live in the world; be it foods or financial services. There are many like Merlene who live miles away from our beautiful island and miss home. We at GraceKennedy, through our services, be it Western Union or Grace Foods, want to be that bridge back to the Caribbean.
"When I come to Jamaica, I try to get as much, eat as much, and take back as much," declares Ottey. "I'm really grateful to Western Union and Hi-Lo for their thoughtfulness".