Chef Colin Wright had always been interested in the art of cooking. He told Thursday Food that even as a young boy he would watch his mother at work in the kitchen preparing fine meals, and when she was away he would go through her cookbooks and try to recreate what he saw. “The photos of the finished meals looked so delightful in her cookbooks that many times I would try to create what I saw. I didn’t quite understand the science or the technique of cooking, so sometimes it would work out and other times it wouldn’t,” he says. Unfortunately for Wright, he wasn’t given the opportunity to experiment in the culinary arts while in high school. However, shortly after leaving Manning’s School, Wright was determined to pursue a career as a chef. As such, he became an apprentice cook, preparing sauces and soup at the Grand Lido hotel in Negril. “The souschefs at Grand Lido would always encourage me. They would tell me that if this is the path I was determined to walk, I would need formal training.”
At the age of 21, a young Wright began his journey. He enrolled at the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel & Training Institute where he spent a year doing food preparation. During that time, Wright was told that Brian Cooper, the dean of the Hospitality and Tourism programme at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, would be in Jamaica. For Wright that was an opportunity he could not pass up. “Having heard that Brian Cooper would be at the Montego Bay Community College, I went there to meet him,” he told Thursday Food. “After I shared my aspirations with him, he presented an opportunity for me to be accepted straight into the second level, considering my training at HEART, but I did not have the accreditation to do so. I told him I would do whatever was necessary, even if it meant starting over. With that said, he offered me a space.” In a matter of months, the necessary paperwork was filed and Wright was off to George Brown to pursue his dream.
Canada was a hugely different experience for Wright. “I learned a lot while at Grand Lido, but the experience in Canada was totally different. When I first got there, they introduced me to top chefs and placed me at the Scaramouche — a really high-end restaurant. The things I saw really opened my eyes, in terms of high-end produce. At the time, I had never seen many of them before while I was in Jamaica.” Wright spent two years at George Brown where he studied culinary management and Italian cuisine. As part of his Italian cuisine programme, Wright was given the opportunity to work at the Dall’ Amelia Restaurant in Venice, Italy, for three months. “They liked my work so much while I was there, they offered to keep me on for another three months,” he shared. After his six-month stint in Italy, Wright returned to Canada where he worked with Shawn Whalen, captain of the Canadian culinary team, at the Skydome Hotel. He later worked as restaurant chef at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel, then returned to Jamaica after living in Canada for 13 years. When asked why he returned to The Rock, Wright quipped, “It was cold.” Now a sous-chef at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf in Ocho Rios for the past nine months, Wright says the food industry in Jamaica today is different from when he left. “Jamaica has kept up with highend international hotels, in terms of the food we prepare and the products we use. We are on par.”
Enjoying life at Sandals, Wright told Thursday Food that his biggest challenge is moving around the property. “Sandals is a large property with a number of outlets. Many things happen each day, so no two days are the same.” Wright also shared that the one thing he enjoys most is dealing with special requests made by the guests. “I love it because it takes you out of that comfort zone and there is an adrenaline rush when you have to prepare something different for a specific person, to suit their need.”
For Wright, things can always change, but the 36-year-old chef believes that once the organisation continues on the same path of excellence, he will always want to be a part of it.