Charlotteville native Maria Nicholson, 72, is opening a small restaurant to help Tobago eat natural and nutritious.
On Thursday, Nicholson launched Royal T Café, at Buck Buck Alley Canaan, aimed at providing an affordable, nutritious meals.
Nicholson, the holder of a bachelor’s degree in food sciences from Pratt Institute, New York, said the menu caters to everyone.
She told Newsday that prior to her return to TT in 2013 after living in the US for several years, this venture was always a dream.
“I was very concerned about the eating lifestyle of Tobagonians, being a nutritionist.”
Tobagonians, she said, enjoy plenty gravy in their foods and do not follow the basic food groups.
“This long set of rice and provision and so much starch duplication – I want to do something different.
“I said to myself, if you can’t beat them, you’re not going to join them, so see how you can help them. So I made myself known to church groups, community groups and I did a lot of training in cooking courses.
“I was always a professional caterer, so I said you know what, I’ll do some business now that I’m retired – but I don’t want to join the gang.”
Having worked alongside a number of local and international chefs, she said that providing catering services was a natural progression in her career.
“I never liked the restaurant business, but I decided to do a restaurant and this restaurant will be teaching what I preach.
“I am going to do healthy food on a smaller, wider variety – I am going to give smaller portions so by the time the plate is complete, it’s a healthy plate.”
She said that Royal T café will not only cater to the Caribbean palate.
“I am going to do multicultural, multi-ethnic; this includes the Muslims and the Jewish communities as well.”
She is hoping to provide some training through this venture.
“I want to teach and prove to Tobagonians that healthy eating habits is necessary along with exercise – they go hand in hand, you can’t do one, not do the other and get success.”
Nicholson said she is not worried about other food businesses in the west of Tobago.
“My meals are not in competition with any of the food establishments – I’m not doing the stews.”
On her buffet would be items such as oil down, coo coo, callaloo, an array of pastas with Italian sauces, fish and varying meats cooked in different styles.
“We have to combine certain foods with other foods for them to be very active, digest and be effective in the upkeep of our healthy bodies. The meals here are top-heavy with starches, not enough vegetables, not enough fruits, and we need these nutrients to be able to activate the hormones and the organs that would work on the heavier food groups – the proteins, the starches and the minerals . I am going to move along that line.”
She added: “You are what you eat.”
She said the intimate restaurant, which seats 24, will be open for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Nicholson promised to support farmers by purchasing most of her ingredients locally.
Although launched on Thursday, Royal T café will officially open at the end of July.
Nicholson said the delay was because she fractured her leg during a recent visit to New York.
“I know people who went through that and died, but I’m alive and I thank God for the very breath that He has given me.”
THA Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes commended Nicholson for the venture.
“From the standpoint of the THA, we would continue to try and create the best environment for business to thrive. We would continue to encourage because this is how we would be able to build the kind of Tobago that we want to build.”