A Jamaican Chef and Her Taste of the American Dream

A constant pitter-patter of rain thumped against the glass storefront window, as the wind hissed at the evening showers. The saturating rain covered the marble pavement and glass windows, but that didn’t stop dedicated customers from flooding the front of Peaches Kitchen.

Despite the dreariness of the night, and while most owners would’ve locked up the doors as soon as the clock struck six, Ms. Peaches continued to prepare savory dishes for late coming customers. It was 6:47 p.m on a Sunday; 47 minutes past closing time and walks out a cheery chef, ready to describe her journey from the Caribbean to Washington D.C.

Peaches Watson is a Jamaican immigrant and chef by way of the Cayman Islands. Hailing from Jamaica over 30 years ago, Peaches set out to redefine past dealings of poverty and agony in search of new possibilities in the land of opportunity.

In 1980, Peaches departed the Caribbean to America with few belongings, a passion for cooking and curating food, and a resilient spirit. “ There were many times I had to get on my knees and pray for the opportunity [in America], especially with my business because it seemed like at times the American Dream wasn’t true for everyone.”

According to a 2017 report by Migration Policy Institute, approximately 4.4 million Caribbean immigrants reside in the United States, accounting for 10 percent of the nation’s 44.5 million immigrants. According to an Urban Institute report, in the District of Columbia, Jamaicans represent almost half of the Caribbean population. In the metropolitan area of Washington, Arlington, and Alexandria there are approximately 30,469 Jamaican Americans.

To Peaches, leaving Jamaica was never about herself but her selflessness to lend a helping hand, ” I’ve always wanted to help my mother. She would work so hard, and I hated to see her sick with headaches.”

Inspired by her mother’s passion for cooking, Peaches began to have dreams of cooking food. Peaches recalls the exact moment she knew she wanted to become a chef. “I remember watching my mother cook loads of curry goat, and it amazes me how she didn’t burn it. And in that moment I knew I wanted to cook just like her.”

In 2007, Peaches accomplished her American Dream, by fighting for what she believed in. ” I just wanted a better life for my mother and my son. I want people to know if you keep being persistent can’t is not a word.”

Layonna Mathis, a Peaches Kitchen employee, says, “She [Peaches] has taught me a lot about the catering business like how to write reports on orders. She’s very hardworking. The experience working for Peaches is pleasant, and I will continue to work with her.”

Zyanna Jones, a local customer, says, “Peaches is the best Caribbean restaurant in all of D.C. I recently moved up here from New Jersey, and honestly I’m used to good food which to me is rare in D.C.”

“Being inspired by my mom, I  have to cook the way I feel inside my heart because cooking is a science,” Peaches says. “It’s a passion. When a family walks into Peaches Kitchen I want everyone to be satisfied with their food whether it’s just french fries or cuisine. A great family atmosphere is important to me. Family is everything.”