The London Office Speaks To: Marcella Smith
In late 2022 Marcella Smith was working as the head chef in a Caribbean restaurant in Leicester, when the owner suddenly announced that he intended to sell the establishment. He offered Ms Smith an opportunity – to take on a new challenge and own her own business, something she had always dreamed of!
As of this year, Chef Cella is an up-and-coming restauranteur, whose Jamaican Rum Bar and Restaurant, Gwan Easy, is taking Leicester by storm! She kindly took the time to speak with the London Office, to share her experiences of moving to the UK and insights into what it takes to run a successful business.
- In a few sentences, describe who you are and what you do?
My name is Marcella “Chef Cella” Smith. I have been an executive chef in Bermuda for over 5 years and currently reside in Leicester, UK, where I own the restaurant Gwan Easy.
- What would you say inspires your food the most?
When it comes to food, I am very inspired by successful chefs: chefs I’ve worked with in my past, chefs that I’ve admired and studied throughout the years, and even at-home chefs, like my mom! They all play a huge role in my inspiration.
- Do you ever use your Bermudian heritage and culture as inspiration for your food and menu?
I can honestly say yes I do! There is definitely a huge island presence in the creativity and flavour of my plating style.
- Why did you decide to relocate to the UK?
I decided to move to the UK for better opportunities, not just for myself but for my three amazing children who I decided needed more out of life.
- What do you love most about the UK? What do you miss most about Bermuda?
In the UK I love the freedom to expand and grow very quickly in my craft. I love the realness of the different cultures of people I’ve met so far, I’ve learnt so much from just associating with such an amazing diverse group of people.
I haven’t been away from my island home that long; I have been in the UK for less than two years, however the only things I miss currently are family and the beautiful ocean side…
- What has been your proudest moment thus far?
My proudest moment is actually taking the plunge to move to this big country, with my kids in tow, having no idea what to expect! Being here less than two years and accomplishing five-year goals in that time. Opening Gwan Easy in the UK is definitely a huge accomplishment for me.
- Where do you see your business in 5 years? 10 years?
I see my business flourishing into a franchise within the next 5 years, and ultimately owning more than one restaurant brand myself in the next ten years.
- Has being Bermudian ever been a benefit or a hindrance to your career or business?
I’ve always believed that being a Bermudian in the hospitality industry is a huge plus. I feel that hospitality is in our nature and that, regardless of what field we work in, we always give a 100% in customer service. It’s the BERMUDA way!!
- What has your experience been like in the UK so far, in regards to establishing yourself and your business?
My experience is still an ongoing learning journey. I had to learn a different lingo when it came to certain foods, and I’m still learning the British palate (understanding what people like and dislike). I’ve also had to take a lot of business courses, as being a restaurateur is a different challenge than to just coming to work and creating fun and exciting menus.
- What advice would you give to aspiring Bermudian business owners in the UK?
Study and learn your niche!! Believe in yourself!!
- What can people in Bermuda and the UK expect from you in the near future?
My COOKING SHOW… I’m currently working on some fun social media projects with my team. Introducing the Gwan Gyals (our marketing team/Influencers) and hosting a few pop-up events in Bermuda and the UK in the next few months as well.
- When you tell people in the UK that you are from Bermuda, what kind of responses do you get?
Well we take about 15 mins explaining where it is and debunking the infamous triangle stories. After I get past that, we talk about food, island lifestyle, culture, and of course I have to tell them we have the best SUMMER parties ever!!! I let them know: don’t sleep on the Bermuda Summer season!!
- What assumptions do you usually hear about Bermuda? How often do you hear the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ reference and what is normally your response?
Bermuda is a close-knit family community, we are all related in some way or form; it takes a village, however Bermuda is sadly changing. Bermuda is small, Bermuda is expensive but Bermuda is still home.
- How can people find out more about Gwan Easy?
Gwan Easy is online, we have a few social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok (all are @gwaneasyuk). I also have a Instagram page @marcella_the_chef, which documents my entire journey as a chef from beginning to present, and is updated frequently.
- Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you?
I want people to know that 10 years ago, I started off as a short order cook at a beach bar, left and went to work in fine dining at the Newport Room, then went to work in the restaurant industry and never gave up on my dreams. Despite my challenges – being a single mom, family issues and the loss of my best friend!! – I never gave up and I never will. MANIFEST YOUR DREAMS AND THEY WILL COME TRUE!!
Gwan Easy can be found at 34 Francis Street, Stoneygate, Leicester LE2 2BD.