Marketplace: Jamaican family opens 11 Hauz restaurant
Opening a restaurant was monumental in many ways for the Hamil/Grant family. Not only was it the continuation of a legacy of female chefs, but it was also a way for them to end a generations-long poverty cycle.
Sheron and Errol Grant, along with their children, opened the restaurant 11 Hauz last July. The eatery, located at 1241 Center Dr. in Kimball Junction, serves Jamaican food.
The family emigrated from Jamaica to the U.S. in the 1980s. Nyesha Hamil, co-owner of the restaurant and the daughter of Sheron and Errol, said Sheron moved to New York City in 1986, and her kids joined her in the States a few years later.
Sheron grew up cooking traditional Jamaican food for her kids and other family members. She learned how to cook from her grandmother, Florence Harding, who cooked all day as a private chef for two families and all night for her children and 11 grandchildren. Her 11 grandchildren and the 11 miles she walked every day to her job as a chef inspired the restaurant’s name 11 Hauz.
Sheron inherited a passion for cooking from Harding, and she later passed it onto Hamil and her other daughters, Anita Hamil and Tanisha Sunnymarz Workman.
In New York City, the family cooked Jamaican food at markets and for family parties. Sheron put her cooking to the side when she moved to Park City in the mid-2000s to be a nanny. When she left the position in 2012, she was ready to get back to cooking and the family signed up for the Park Silly Sunday Market.
They worked at the market and catered for a few years, always answering with “one day” when customers asked when they would open a permanent restaurant in Park City. Then, at the end of 2017, Sheron began to search for a location.
In January of 2018, she found an available space and told the family, “We are going to do it.”
They signed the lease in March and spent four months getting the space and the menu ready. They opened their doors on July 18.
One of the hardest parts of starting a restaurant was learning how to ensure consistency in the cooking and record the recipes, Hamil said. The family learned to cook by watching Harding or Sheron in the kitchen, so nothing was recorded. They spent months recording recipes in order to make their dishes consistent.
11 Hauz serves Jamaican food such as jerk chicken and shrimp, fried plantains and oxtail. Most of the dishes have been in the family for generations, such as the mac and cheese and curry chicken from Harding.
Different family members came up with the other recipes. Hamil spent about four years perfecting her recipe for a beef patty, a pastry filled with spiced meat. Gloria Edwards McDonald, the last living child of Harding, makes Jamaican drinks and desserts.
Hamil said she and her family opened the restaurant because they wanted to bring more culture to her home of Park City. She is a dancer, and she frequently performs at Park City events. Errol was the lead singer of the former reggae band Patwa Reggae.
Hamil hopes when people step into the restaurant, they feel like they are walking into Jamaica.
The walls are painted bright green and orange, and they are lined with mirrors and windows that are reminiscent of Jamaica. Corrugated zinc line the seats, which Hamil said is the same material her roof and gate were made of in her Jamaican home growing up. The tables have the colors of the Jamaican flag. Reggae music plays in the background.
Sheron, Errol and Anita and Nyesha Hamil cook, but they all help out with the front of the house when needed. Sheron’s granddaughters Yanique Bland and Kiera Espaillat help serve food as well.
Hamil said she loves working with her family, even though it can be stressful when there is a disagreement. Errol, she said, is the peacekeeper.
“I’d rather build a legacy with my family than with anyone else,” she said. “As we’re back there cooking, we’re singing and having a lot of fun.”
She is proud of the business she and her family members have built, especially when she walks around the restaurant and hears people saying “ah” and “mmm” as they take a bite of the food.
“That, to me, is more priceless,” she said. “One of the most amazing gifts that we have gotten in life is just to see how receiving people are to the food.”
Coming from a childhood where the family didn’t know where their next meal would come from, owning a restaurant is a major step.
“It’s the first in a lot of our generation that is being uplifted from poverty to something greater. We had six generations where we struggled,” she said.
She hopes to see the restaurant grow, and to open a club and lounge one day that would play reggae music and bring even more Caribbean culture to Park City.
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