The official opening to the Cho-Cho Jamaican restaurant in Hangzhou China was held during the summer of 2007. According to owner Glendon Thompson this is the first Jamaican restaurant to be opened in the country of 1 Billion people. Amazingly Thompson who is from Jamaica, lives in Atlanta and then opened the restaurant in Asia, this is truly a global business.
Such a global trotting business activity came about from a "desire to introduce the culture of Jamaica to Chinese friends in a personal way. They knew we were track stars but not much else. The Chinese love to eat and socialize. While they eat they hear Jamaican and Caribbean music", Thompson. Thompson also goes on to say that he chose to go into China because of a "real love for Chinese people".
To help make a good first impression, Thompson opened the restaurant with one of the top caterers in Georgia, Carmen Allen of the award winning Carmen Catering. Ms Allen was delighted for the opportunity and according to her the restaurant was big news in China and it was received positively in the city of 6 million people. When asked about keeping the authenticity of the food, Thompson said that "we do our best to keep it authentic, however the taste of the Chinese is different than ours. As the Chinese adjust to our taste when they bring their restaurants here I had to adjust to their taste. So it will be a little different taste. The important thing is that now they know our music and a taste of our food. Most of the ingredients are local, again a business decision. We will improve as time goes on."
In terms of how the residents responded to the food Thompson explained that "we had a month of taste testing and found out that the hottest of our food did not go over well in this part of China, we had to adjust to stay in business." Culturally though Thompson demonstrated that "we (Jamaicans and Chinese) have many things in common, especially the old time Jamaica where people looked after each other. Friendships are extremely important and I am fortunate enough to have many close Chinese friends."
On the status of the business he said that, "so far we are doing better than the other restaurants around in our area, but it will take some time to build up the clientele." He illustrates his ambitions as he expresses "I have learned a lot and hope to open more in other cities. You really have to have a deep love for the Chinese to succeed here. They see through phonies very quickly."
The opening was attended by The Ambassador from Jamaica, Wayne McCook, officials from the city of Hang Zhou, owner Glendon Thompson, Chef Carmen Allen and partners Zhang Bingyang and Qiao Jing. The Red Army's military band provided the fanfare music. Reggae was played by violins.
Glen Thompson lives in Atlanta and is married to Claire McLeveighn, director of external affairs and international relations for the City of Atlanta and two sons. Carmen Allen, in addition to running her own catering firm, has events every Sunday at a Jamaican venue called Kozy Cove. Carmen is also a member of the Kingston Technical Alumni Association and a hard working community activist.
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.
See you in Jamaica.