Jerome ‘Jerry’ Odibi opened his St Leonards restaurant 10 years ago. Here he tells Steven Short the key to
the eatery’s longevity and his passion for hospitality. 

Where are you from and how long have you been in St Leonards? 
I’m from Nigeria, West Africa. I’ve been in Saint Leonards since September 2007 when I was transferred from Richmond for work (I was previously in the care sector). 

Why is your restaurant called Mama Putts?
‘Mama’ means mother (of course) ‘Putts’ means “give me more” – Mama give me more food! And yes, Mama always gave us more. 

You serve west African and Caribbean food – give us a flavour of what diners can expect? 
It’s a variety between Nigerian, Ghanaian and Caribbean food … we offer a choice from mild to very spicy flavours. Dishes range from Jamaican Patties and our famous fried dumplings with stew sauce, to goat pepper stew and jerk chicken. We also cater for vegetarians and vegans!

I saw that you had a vegan menu. Many people might not associate that with Afro-Caribbean food? 
I wanted to make sure that my menu covered all food preferences and allergies, giving everyone an opportunity to come and eat at Mama Putts.

Who taught you to cook? 
I learnt quite a bit from my mother, growing up and watching her cook for the family back home! Here it’s all about practising, and when I’m in need of advice, my mother is only a phone call away! I have a real passion for food and a drive to be the best in what I do; I am always looking for ways to improve. 

What do you love about running a restaurant? 
I’m a people person, I love interacting. For me, Mama Putts and all our customers are like one big happy family! The feedback, the returning customers and the smiles on their faces as they leave give me the motivation to do my best, day in day out.

You’re celebrating your 10th anniversary – what’s the secret to lasting so long when many restaurants don’t survive? 
Consistency, adapting and upgrading with the changing times so that I can meet the needs and requirements of my clientele. Lastly, the support I get from my family and friends and their belief in me. 

You recently had an art exhibition – is this something you’ll be doing again? 
Having the art exhibition is just one of the ventures I have planned moving forwards! I started with the art exhibition because I also have an eye for beautiful art pieces.

What are your plans for 2022? 
I have a few things in mind, which are always works in progress: jazz nights, more art exhibitions, taking part in food festivals and promoting a charity that Mama Putts is now involved in. It’s a local charity called Progress Network which is aimed at helping the ethnic minority and at empowering youth. /

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