About The Reef
In 1999, myself, Liz da Mata and my business partner, Simon Cotton, opened up The Reef Restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver, BC. We were both from the East originally, where we used to go out for West Indian food a lot. Moving to the West Coast, we saw that there was a lack of good Caribbean food in a sit-down restaurant environment. We wanted to open a restaurant that would give people food as delicious as we had back east, and then some.
With some hard work and a lot of home cooking, we think we gave Vancouver and Victoria a taste of authentic Caribbean food with a modern flair.
Growing up, Simon spent a lot of time in Barbados where he first tasted Caribbean food and fell in love with the flavours of the West Indies. My family is from Brazil, a country that uses many of the same ingredients as in the Caribbean. When we became friends, we used to hang out at the Caribbean restaurants in Winnipeg and really shared a love of food from the Islands. Subsequently, we travelled every year to the West Indies to do product research and bring back a recipe or two. If we spent some time on the beach in the process, well, that was one of the hardships of the job.
At The Reef, we were very fortunate over the years to have people from the Islands hold key positions in our kitchen. We’ve had people from Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, and all over the Caribbean, who have left their mark on our restaurants and menus. And, of course, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have Paulette Wedderburn from the interior of Jamaica, who created our famous jerk marinade, and had been the soul of The Reef kitchen since it opened in 1999 and closed in 2020.
Meet Miss P
Paulette Wedderburn or “Miss Paulette” as we know her is the heart of The Reef's kitchen. The mother of four children, she has been cooking her whole life.
Miss Paulette was born in Kingston, Jamaica and attended Alpha Academy girls boarding school during the sixties where she excelled in cooking classes. But it was her mother who taught her the secrets of making fantastic curries with “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” and a whole lot of soul. In the late 1980's, she came to Canada and ultimately settled in Vancouver. Along with her mother and sister, she ran Pee Gee's Family Jamaican Restaurant for five years.
Simon and I met Miss Paulette when The Reef was first getting started. This union resulted in the infusion of her Jamaican family recipes into the wider range of Caribbean cooking that embodies the Reef philosophy. Over the years, we have had cooks from Trinidad, Barbados, Dominica, Cuba & Guyana who have graced us with a little piece of their island. But it is Paulette who provides the soul that brings it together.