Chef Ellis serves up Jamaican cuisine in Florida

Chef Ellis serves up Jamaican cuisine in Florida


Sunday, December 08, 2019

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TAMARAC, Florida – When Ade Ellis, now 29 years old, emigrated to Florida 14 years ago, he had already made up his mind that cooking would be his career path.

He was confident, too, that someday he would become the owner of a restaurant that serves up Jamaican cuisine.

Today, Ellis, a native of Dunbeholden in the Portmore area of St Catherine, now a seasoned chef, is proprietor of the increasingly popular Rootz Bar and Café located on North University Drive in Tamarac, Florida with plans to open four more restaurants in the near future, one of which will be located in his native island.

He credits his love for cooking and his skills at the craft to his late grandmother, Vera Anglin, whom he says was a master cook.

“My grandmother was a big time chef,” Ellis told the Jamaica Observer, during an interview at his Tamarac restaurant recently, against the background of pulsating reggae music of several Jamaican artistes, including the up-and-coming singer Koffee.

“Cooking is something that I love from a very tender age, thanks to my (grandmother). She taught me from very early how to cook and stressed that presentation of the meal was also very important. I always try to emulate my grandmother. Wherever she is looking from now at what I am doing, it must be pleasing to her.”

A former student of Bridgeport High School in St Catherine, Ellis, who was said to have tremendous football skills, played for the school's Under-16 football team, and was a regular fixture in the parish outfit.

In his early days in Florida, he also displayed his football prowess while playing for the Coral Springs Storm — a formidable team that was highly rated across Florida.

But, with all the accolades earned from football, Ellis knew fully well that cooking was his first love, and subsequently pursued culinary courses at the Coral Glades High School in Florida.

By 2012, Ellis and several of his Jamaican friends teamed up and began cooking tasty dishes in his backyard in Fort Lauderdale on Fridays. The event dubbed 'Pan Fridays' soon increased activities to Saturdays due to the tremendous support from customers.

The event within months outgrew its location and a building was subsequently found where the group began the operation of a restaurant, opening six days a week.

A few years later, disagreements over the distribution of profits from the then successful business venture led to a break-up and the eventual closure of the restaurant.

Disappointed, but determined not to 'lie down and play dead', Ellis started again to do his cooking from home until his big break came two years ago when he opened up Rootz Bar and Café.

Starting out with four employees, the business now employs eight workers on a regular basis and several other hands occasionally, especially when the restaurant is providing catering service, as it often does.

“Our restaurant is one of a kind. It reminds me of home [Jamaica]. It's very cultural. We don't serve everything that you would get at a typical Jamaican restaurant here [Florida],” said chef Ellis.

“We are upscale, we cater for the people who will come in and wait an extra 10 minutes to make sure that their meal is done to perfection,” he said, adding that 60 per cent of his customers are of Jamaican descent.

His elaborate menu includes a wide variety of seafood, chicken, pork, soups, pasta, and curried goat.

A wide array of natural juices is also available as well as Guinness, Red Stripe beer and other alcoholic beverages.

Since opening the restaurant two years ago, chef Ellis said he has witnessed a 1,000 per cent increase in customers, adding that some of them include reggae artistes Dexta Daps, Rygin King, Masicka, Dre Island and Jada Kingdom.

Rootz Bar and Café also caters for wedding and parties such as Day Break, where the restaurant caters for roughly 6, 000 patrons at that event.


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