Cooking and serving groups — in one form or another — have always been a part of Norris Barr’s life.
Barr, along with wife, Emilie Wright, now plans to bring a taste of his home — Jamaica — inland to Temple with his restaurant Ras Kitchen.
The restaurant, Barr said, has been operating for the past six years in Killeen, selling authentic Caribbean and Jamaican food. The new restaurant will move to downtown Temple, 17 S. Main St., and is set to open in May, with May 1 being the target date.
Barr wanted to expand to somewhere more accessible, but still wanted to be the chef so he could control the food quality.
This was one of the reasons Wright said the location in Temple was chosen, with the city’s proximity to Interstate 35 also helping.
“We are in downtown Killeen, so we are on a downtown street but we really have no connection to the highway and so you have to go into the city to get to us,” Wright said. “(Barr) has done things in Central Texas for about a decade so he has a lot of customers even outside of Bell County … who travel to come eat. So we are excited to present them with a bigger space to bring their family.”
Barr, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, grew up learning how to cook from his grandmother when he was 5 or 6 before leaving the island when he was 18.
Gatherings would have many members of the community come over, each with an ingredient that was then combined into the group’s meal.
“We call it running a boat, but it is kind of like a potluck situation,” Barr said. “Everyone would bring the ingredients and you would have someone who would do the cooking, and that was always me.”
Since leaving the island, Barr has learned to cook in a restaurant setting and enjoys helping people experience the flavors of his home.
The restaurant will feature various dishes, with something being available for everyone regardless of if they enjoy fish, meat or vegan food. Customers will get to choose between dishes such as jerk chicken, whole red snapper, stew and rottie.
Barr said the new location will allow him to expand the menu to include curried crab, jerked salmon and other seafood.
The restaurant also serves a variety of homemade juices, such as pineapple moss or sorrel ginger. Barr said these juices are packed with flavor with one of them, The Three-Legged Man, taking around two weeks to make.
“It’s my life, it’s what I love to do, I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Barr said. “I will stay in the kitchen for 100 hours and it won’t bother me.”
Wright, who runs the front of house, said the restaurant already is in the process of hiring staff, who she hopes to get trained for the opening.
The restaurant aims to be part of the community, with Wright wanting to hire Temple workers so the money also stays in the community. The restaurant is holding an open interview from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, with those wanting to work able to come with their resumes.
“When we go into these restaurants everyone is full of life and I want those people to come here and to fill out applications,” Wright said. “We want to hire the community, we want to put money back into the community and we want to be part of the future growth of Temple as well.”
Wright also plans on holding an open tour of the restaurant’s second floor event space 5-7 p.m. Monday for local businesses and event planners.
As it comes closer to the restaurant’s opening, Barr said he is a little nervous but is also excited to bring a little Jamaica to Temple.
“In Jamaica we always party, we always eat and we are always having fun, so we are bringing it here,” he said.