The rocky - but rewarding - road to the big food idea

Cecile Levee is the kind of entrepreneur your business ethics professor, back in college, warned you never to become.

"I take the risks that every MIT, Harvard and Columbia business lecturer teaches students never to take," she says, speaking to the gathering at Tuesday's Jamaica Observer Foodie Seminar held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.

Levee says - and on meeting her, it's not even necessary to say - that she's ruled by "pure unadulterated passion", a passion that she will not allow to be quenched by annoying details like an inadequate capital base. The owner-operator of 'Wine With Me' - an ultra-chic wine bar and café in Montego Bay which opened three months ago - even admits it.

Her current biggest passion, she says, is getting Jamaicans to explore the wonderful world of wines.

"Wine drinking is not as 'hifalutin' as people would like to think," Levee adds, adding that her bar carries over 60 different wines and 10 different wines served by the glass.

The unscripted and politically incorrect Levee served up down-to-earth, often hilarious anecdotes on life as a "designer restaurateur" in Jamaica's west-end.

"It's been hard trying to create something new; even if it's people kicking and screaming about my two scallops on the plate," she says, maintaining that visiting her restaurant is more of an experience than a 'bellyfull'.

Though visitors to Wine With Me are usually in awe of the ambience and dining experience within minutes, Levee says she worked at perfecting these features for months. She adds that it's important to create a warm space where people will want to revisit because of its outstanding service.

"Every member of my staff had to taste everything [on the menu]... If it's too good for them, how can I get them to effectively sell it to the customers?"

Staff training aside, Levee maintains that having a support network, including wine suppliers Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) and Hamilton's Smoke House, has helped her to maintain a stronger foothold in the industry. And while nothing beats good relationships, Levee adds another driving force behind the business is her near reckless disdain of failure.

"I don't understand the concept of failing...failure is doing absolutely nothing," she says, "If you think of all the things you can't do, you won't do anything at all."

'Doing something', for Levee, means presenting the best of anything - even if it's not her own and therefore outsourced.

"I've been talking to Nicole [of Nicole's Sweet Temptations]...maybe she can do some truffles for me. I can't say I make everything myself, but I can say I have the best of everything."

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