Tourism made me what I am

Tourism made me what I am

Best Kept Secret owner Alvin 'Dickie' Butler restaurateur to the rich, famous, and ordinary man

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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The name Alvin “Dickie” Butler might not be the most recognisable in local tourism circles, but certainly the same thing cannot be said about his internationally acclaimed eatery, known by many as Portland's “Best Kept Secret”.

Neatly perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the blue Caribbean Sea, just on the outskirts of Bryan's Bay, Port Antonio, the restaurant, at first glance, doesn't look like much, but don't be fooled.

Best Kept Secret is a fine dining restaurant known the world over for its varied cuisine, delicacy, and sheer simplicity. It is also a favourite getaway spot for honeymooners, celebrities, Hollywood legends, political representatives, tourists, and the local people, who cannot get enough and are easily captivated by its natural allure, beauty, sumptuous meals, and high-quality service.

The name in itself is not only suggestive, but owner/operator Butler is not at all shy to talk about his lifelong commitment to tourism, which has not only paved the way for his success in business, but has assisted greatly with the “building up, bonding, and well-being” of his family.

Tourism, according to Butler, “has always been a way of life, which creates a livelihood full of economic opportunities and prospects and which has brought about serious financial gains to many stakeholders in Jamaica… the land of wood and water”.

Butler, who spoke passionately about his more than four decades-old business, recounted that when he started out in 1972, he was selling ripe bananas at the front of the now new look 'empire', which has undergone significant expansion over the years, so as to adequately accommodate tourists from Europe, North America, Australia, and Africa, “who are all repeat visitors”.

“What I am today, or rather what I have achieved in life, is as a result of tourism in Jamaica,” Butler.

“Yes, we are now affected by COVID-19, which is a global pandemic, but provisions have to be made for a restart, so that those in the industry will begin to once again earn from their livelihood. I believe that once we adhere to the protocols and guidelines that are set out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, we should be well on our way to combat this disease,” Butler reasoned.

He said that one of his business mantras is that the Best Kept Secret is an attraction that caters for the “poor, rich and famous, and the ordinary man”, adding that “everyone is treated equally irrespective of the colour of their skin”.

“Tourism for me is not all about white people, because our own locals move around from parish to parish, which is also a kind of tourism. Whether some people want to accept it or not, there is no real life without tourism. Any growth in any country requires a functional and efficient tourism industry. When I shop at the supermarket or at the fisherman's beach, it is only because I earn from my livelihood in tourism,” Butler further noted.

Butler, who has been featured in the internationally renowned Time Magazine, has received multiple awards locally, including from the Jamaica Tourist Board as recently as last year and from several local food agencies. He is also a recipient of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards.

It comes as no surprise that celebrities including the late Winnie Mandela, Linda Evans from the cast of the Bold and Beautiful, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, Hollywood actor Lou Gosset Jr, the late Hollywood actress Patrice Flynn, and many others, made repeated calls to the picturesque property, which resembles something from a fairy-tale.

“I schooled my four children, support my wife, and myself, only as a result of my time, commitment, and belief in tourism. I have had no regrets, and the skills that I have learned, starting out as a waiter in the hotel industry, paved the way for me to foster a future in tourism. As a matter of fact, I received a plaque and a citation from Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett himself, who encouraged me to continue to hold up the banner of tourism,” Butler added.

“You have to understand service,” added Butler, who learned the art at some of Jamaica's best hotels, including the Ritz Carlton. And yes, he served royalty in his time.

Butler has also been a mentor to many aspiring chefs, going out of his way on numerous occasions to pass on his craft to “those who are willing to learn”.

“I am a firm believer in giving something back,” he said. “I have achieved a lot out of this business and I would love for this legacy to continue, even when I am long gone.”

Meals are five courses, and lobster is Butler's speciality. Phone ahead for your reservation and meal preferences. Butler doesn't keep anything on hand as he prepares fresh for each guest. And it is cash only, so don't rely on your credit card.

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