“I have the simplest of taste. I only want the best, and that’s what we serve here,” Maree Sigurdson, owner of Tea Tree Crêperie restaurant, told BUZZ.
And we believe her.
Maybe it was how passionately she spoke about food. Or how warmly she responded to the customers who interrupted our interview to greet her. In any case, there was a genuineness to Sigurdson that made us believe that she meant what she said.
And this very quality radiated in the atmosphere of her restaurant.
With the wall painted with signatures of past customers, and the wooden chairs that complement it, the sounds of plates clattering in the kitchen around the back, you felt at home, welcomed.
This was exactly the type of space Sigurdson wanted to create when she started her business in 2011. A comfortable welcoming atmosphere, where diners could enjoy delicious ‘french fusion’ cuisine.
Sigurdson animatedly told BUZZ the story of how she started her restaurant. A summer in Greece, the most delicious crêpes she’s ever tasted, a very supportive daughter, and an unbridled passion for food.
“I was in Athens, Greece in 2011. I spent ten weeks trekking in Greece, on my own, going to different islands, discovering crêperies. Then I got an email from my daughter saying ‘mom, we’ve been offered a place for a tea room, three months later Tea Tree Crêperie was born,” she said.
“You can’t give up because of bureaucracy, you just have to work through it, and do the best you can.”— Sigurdson
Since then Sigurdson has been serving up delicious plates of her signature smoked marlin crêpes; filled with smoked marlin, cream cheese and pepper jelly (made in-house).
A keen business sense
“I know that there is no place else in the world that sells those crêpes, and that’s 100 per cent guaranteed. Jamaica is the only island that smiles the marlin the way we do,” she said.
And though her skill in the kitchen is undeniable, the success of Tea Tree Crêperie is rooted in the keen business sense of Sigurdson and her daughter.
“I’ve been a chef since I was just 7 years old. I had three older brothers who ate everything I made, and I used to cry when they ate everything, and my mother would say, ‘no-no, the time to cry is if they don’t eat it’,” she said.
“If I see a dish coming back, and there’s food on it. I do not hesitate to go back to the table and say, ‘I’m sorry was there a problem? Is there a way we can fix this?'”
But the success that she now enjoys was not without its challenges.
“We first opened in Montego Bay, and we operated at a loss. No walk-in clients at all,” she said.
“There’s also a lot of bureaucracy involved. I’ve been getting a food handlers permit every year for the last 30 years. The bureaucracy is challenging, but you have to push on, you can’t give up because of bureaucracy, you just have to work through it, and do the best you can,” she said.
Along with being a businesswoman, the Canadian-born Sigurdson has also been quite active in the Canadian Women’s Club of Jamaica, serving as president several times.
She has also been active in the Woman Inc. of Kingston, serving as vice president, being a hotline counsellor, and advocating for domestic abuse victims.
For Sigurdson, this brings a level of fulfilment that not even food can rival.