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INSPIRE BVI: From night club cleaner to boss

Evelyn Wong-Dawson. Photo Credit: Andre ‘Shadow’ Dawson/BVI News Online

By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Journalist

When she left secondary school at age 17, Evelyn Wong-Dawson landed her first job, which was to clean a night club at Penguin International Hotel in Guyana.

Now, decades later, she stands tall among business gurus who have toiled long and hard for every bit of success.

Wong-Dawson beamed with pride on the weekend when, for the first time, the doors to her D’Coal Pot Restaurant were swung open on the Carrot Bay waterfront, British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Carrot Bay is the brand new home of the four-year-old restaurant, which previously operated at a rented building elsewhere on island.

Wong-Dawson is no longer required to pay rent; she owns the new location where she now serves some of the most scrumptious dishes to both residents and tourists.

“I love to cook,” she told BVI News Online. “Without a doubt, cooking is my first love.”

Wong-Dawson further stated that, in fine Guyanese tradition, she started to cook up a storm at a very young age – age seven, to be exact.

Over the years, she has had stints in different careers throughout the hospitality industry. But she always finds her way back to tantalizing the taste-buds.

“People don’t return for bad food,” the restaurateur noted. “You could give the best of service. But, if the food is crappy, the customers are not coming back.”

Wong-Dawson added that she also believes in serving value for money. “I believe in giving people a fair amount of food for their money; everybody works hard for the money they earn,” she said.

Love at first sight

Wong-Dawson, no doubt, knows the kitchen well.

But the kitchen perhaps was the last place on her mind when she first set foot on BVI soil 21 years ago. She had come to spend time with a local soother by the name of Delroy Dawson.

“He saw my picture in a friend’s album and told my friend, ‘I wanna marry this woman [in the picture]’. About two years later, I met him when he came to Guyana. Then, I came up here [in the BVI] about four months later. I went back home to Guyana and, six months later, he proposed to me.”

After the wedding, Wong-Dawson relocated to the BVI. “I didn’t have any relative here. But I had three wonderful in-laws who made the transition [from Guyana to the BVI] easy,” she told BVI News Online.

A bit later, like a river finds the sea, Wong-Dawson found her way back into the hospitality industry.

She spent about two years working with her mother-in-law, Iona Dawson, who then owned the Palm’s Delight restaurant at Carrot Bay, Tortola. “That’s where I learned to cook the local dishes; my mother-in-law is a great teacher,” Wong-Dawson said.

She subsequently worked at different restaurants – the last being one operated by Bob and Violet ‘Letty’ Hodge.

The brand new building housing D’Coal Pot Restaurant. Photo Credit: Andre ‘Shadow’ Dawson/BVI News Online

When the Hodges pulled down their shutters permanently, Wong-Dawson bought some of the equipment. “That was the beginning of what I wanted for myself – a restaurant,” she told BVI News Online.

D’Coal Pot Restaurant, at that juncture, was born.

The name was chosen for different reasons, including the fact that Wong-Dawson’s favourite restaurant back home in Guyana had the same name. “I wanted a name for the business that was authentic Caribbean; something that would resonate with where I come from and where I am,” the entrepreneur said.

Full circle

Wong-Dawson got a grand opportunity to physically start her restaurant when she rented a building at Apple Bay on the western end of Tortola.

She stayed there for four years. “The building later went up for sale; there were a lot of issues in looking at it on a long-term basis,” Wong-Dawson told BVI News Online in explaining why she did not buy the building.

Coincidentally, her mother-in-law, Iona, decided to retire from Palm’s Delight restaurant that she operated in Carrot Bay for decades.

Her retirement paved the way for Wong-Dawson to come full circle, when she acquired her mother-in-law’s building, where she first worked when she arrived in the BVI from Guyana.

That old building, however, was demolished. Its replacement is a brand new structure that houses D’Coal Pot Restaurant.

Wong-Dawson, who now has nearly 10 employees on payroll, stated that she also gets assistance from her husband Delroy and son Evroy.

She remains heaving involved in the daily running of the restaurant. “When you open up a restaurant, you’ve got to be there. You have to eat everything; you have to taste everything. And, if it doesn’t taste right, you have to say something,” Wong-Dawson said.

She further told BVI News Online that her career in the culinary arts is built on a wealth of experience – experience she does not store selfishly.

“If I have all of this knowledge and I keep it to myself, it is not worth anything,” Wong-Dawson declared.

“It feels really great to pass knowledge on to the young people.”

Members of staff at D’Coal Pot Restaurant. Photo Credit: Andre ‘Shadow’ Dawson/BVI News Online

Copyright 2017 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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31 Comments

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  1. Just awesome says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 2

    Awesome story. Congratulations to all.

  2. son of the soil says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    The BVI is a college

    • VG Girl says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 8

      You right about that…

      A college full with professors from all over the world that the college can’t survive without.

  3. sad to say but says:

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 43

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • What dat? says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

      It is all about hard work. I have never known anyone who has worked as hard as Evelyn and has maintained exceptionally high standards.

      She is an inspiration for all BVIslanders who want to succeed.

    • *** says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

      Two words, HARD WORK!!! Talk is cheap! The BVIslanders who want something have it. The ones who like to talk are still talking. I wonder where you fit in?

  4. mi ra says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

    nice.. i have to try there

  5. Co worker says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    Congrats bull coming soon

  6. Bvi says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    Yes , thanks to the bvi

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    Congrats! God Bless The Virgin Islands

  8. Good story says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

    I am glad for this article because I didn’t know about this restaurant. I can now pass by and dine in lovely Carrot Bay. This publicity is a plus for the business.

  9. lokal says:

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  10. doctor says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    Congratulation I am so proud of you and your staff. I remember you talking about your dream and now it has materialized.congrats Evelyn

  11. Wendy says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    Congratulations and best wishes.

  12. Wise up says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Best steak on island 🌴

  13. Girl says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    Favorite restaurant! Favorite Dish is the Lobster Alfredo.. LOVEEE!! Will definitely come out to see this new location!

  14. Food for thought says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Congratulations from the USA. I will have to stop by on my next visit.

  15. R u bad says:

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Unsolved mysteries says:

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      you hate beautiful carrot bay so go and write novel and while doing cart you jealous ass

  16. Hmmm says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Please have some vegan dishes on the menu. Too often we can’t get anything to eat at restaurants as the menu does not cater for persons with dietary restrictions.

  17. llepage says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    we’ve been regular patrons at the Apple Bay site – looking forward to visiting your new location – congratulations!

  18. Sherry says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    Dear Evelyn, congratulations on all that you have accomplished with the assistance of your wonderful husband uncle Delroy and your great staff!

    I’m so grateful to be your friend and to have watched your progress over the past 20 years. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with such focus and ability to problem solve.

    I admire your singlemindedness, generosity and brilliance. You definitely got it goin’ on girl! Love you, Sher

  19. Pork Ras says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    The Coconut shrimp and Jerk pork chop, hands down, the best on island. Congrats on the new location!! Closer to me!

  20. Just moved here says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Just moved here from the USA. Looking forward to visiting your restaurant very soon.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Congratulations Evelyn. I am very proud of your achievements. One day I will visit the island and seek you out. Keep the pot bubbling my friend. Much love ❤️

  22. radika james says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Congratulations to you my dear sister,hard work do pay off,you have come a long way may god bless you and your staff.hope to see you soon…

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