When Pam Jacob first visited Seattle decades ago, everyone she met was friendly and respectful – a stark contrast to the infamous “Seattle Freeze” we hear so much about. Jacob was overwhelmed by the hospitality and also loved that the town was clean and peaceful. After getting into financial difficulties and losing her mother in her home town of Cunupia, Trinidad, she decided to move here for good in 1994.
She worked as a housekeeper for a while and sometimes cooked for her employers. She later started hosting small parties and events, and her food was always a big hit with long lines. The guests promised her that they would come if she ever opened a restaurant. She began to imagine opening her own place. Although happy with the transition to Seattle, she found that many of the foods she tried in the city lacked enough flavor. Pam’s Kitchen, her popular Wallingford restaurant and one of the few Caribbean restaurants in Seattle, is Jacob’s way of filling that void.
“I want to give you some spice in your life! I did this for [my customers]“, She says and explains that it was an important motivation on her way as a business woman to bring an authentic experience to this region.
That’s exactly what Pam’s Kitchen’s menu does, filled with salivating starters and side dishes. Foods like jerk chicken and curry-flavored meat are always popular with customers, and some of the more adventurous visitors will try the hearty goat. The side dishes, breads, desserts and creative cocktails reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds that influence the cuisine of West India.
As a real chef, Jacob doesn’t catalog her culinary creations.
“I don’t have any prescriptions,” she says. “I cook how I feel.”
She puts her heart into every aspect of the restaurant, from shopping for fresh ingredients to showing up every day to make sure things go right.
“I’m not an owner who just leaves; I want to know what’s going on in the kitchen, ”explains Jacob.
This investment extends to their customers as well. Before the pandemic, Jacob was known for meeting guests and going from table to table with warm greetings and conversation.
“I have the best customers. I am in love [them]”She says. Now that the restaurant only serves takeout, she misses those interactions as well as special features like Pam’s Jams, social events with live Caribbean music that bring people together and bring more rhythm to Wallingford.”
The feeling is mutual: your customers love you. Jacob shared how a pair of brothers once invited her over and prepared dinner for her in her apartment to show their appreciation, and how a man called her shortly after the Covid success and restaurants had to suspend food and a $ 500 Gift bought certificate.
“I want you to stay in business,” he said. GoFundMe donations also poured in, helping her keep the lights on at a time when many other facilities in the city were forced to close their doors for good. Later, following the death of George Floyd and a re-examination of racial justice across the country, Jacob felt even more warmth from the community.
“We want you here,” some said. Many Seattle residents made a conscious effort to patronize more black-owned businesses, which led to a surge in orders. Some days the restaurant even ran out of food. Others told her that her restaurant was her favorite, which she describes as “better than” [a] Howl [review]. ”For Jacob, her idea of the American dream is“ not about driving a Tesla or having a huge house – it’s accepted and my food is loved ”.
Although she is grateful for the support and success, running Pam’s Kitchen has not been straightforward. It took five years after opening to build a relatively steady clientele just to have to relocate. It has been ups and downs since moving to Wallingford. She hesitates to add anything to the menu because on days when specials are not being sold, she wastes food and money. Advertising is expensive, so it relies on word of mouth. To these challenges comes a global pandemic, and of course Jacob can get frustrated. However, she is not going to go anywhere if she can prevent it.
“I can’t give up the restaurant. Haven’t seen the end of this restaurant yet. There is potential. I have to see it through to the end, ”she says.
Would you like to support other various local businesses like Pam’s Kitchen? Seattle Refined is proud to partner with Intentionalist, an online guide to make it easier for you to find and connect with a variety of local businesses, from women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities be guided.