Ogarth’s Kitchen finds success with MBAC
“There’s two things you wake up with every morning – a chance and a choice,” Ogarth Thompson fondly recalls his father telling him when he was growing up in Jamaica. “My father stopped school in sixth grade but that man is the smartest person I know.”
Thompson, owner and sole employee of “Ogarth’s Kitchen” in Akron, Ohio prepares and serves authentic Jamaican food to a wide range of customers from his carry out location at 145 Cole Avenue. “Other people do fusions and American/Jamaican/Caribbean cuisine, but nothing is as authentic as my food. I let my food speak for itself.”
Growing up with Rastafarian workaholic parents, Thompson’s family grew their own food, caught their own fish, and cooked their own meals. “I’m not a man of resources, but I’m a resourceful man,” his father would confidently say.
Thompson has worked with some of the world’s most decorated chefs, but he’s never been to culinary school. His last two years in high school he focused on food and nutrition. He got a dishwasher job at a hotel and that’s how his career in hospitality started. Any time an employee at the hotel called off for the day, Thompson would fill in for their job. He took on and learned many roles, some days it was security, and some days it was as the breakfast chef.
“Don’t let anyone ever call you lazy,” Thompson’s father would remind him, and clearly those words of wisdom stuck.
Thompson opened his first restaurant when he was 18. Shortly after, he was recruited by a luxury resort in Virginia, Homestead 1766, the oldest resort in America. The company recruits its staff from around the world. He was initially hired on an H-2B visa to fulfill a nine-month contract. After nine months, the president of the company asked Thompson if he wanted an extension, and he said yes. That nine-month contract turned into a 10-year career.
While working for the Homestead, Thompson met his wife. An Akron native, she attended culinary school in Pittsburgh and was doing an internship at the Homestead when they met. In 2013 his wife wanted to move back to Akron to be closer to her family. So, Thompson went to the Hilton and applied for a job. They asked him to meet with the general manager, human resources department, and chef at Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls. He was hired and spent eight years working as a chef there, most notably as the chef who opened The Jetty. His name was even on the menu.
While in Akron, Thompson also did private cooking for clients. Feeding those clients helped him build a good customer base, so by the time he opened up Ogarth’s Kitchen in 2020, he already had people eager to patronize his restaurant.
But Thompson wasn’t initially looking to open a restaurant. He was actually looking for a food trailer when he was referred to the Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) at the Akron Urban League (AUL). “I was looking to get into a food trailer and I didn’t know what direction to go. I was talking to someone and they said you should talk to the AUL. I looked it up and called and got Misty.”
The Misty he’s referring to is Misty Rogers, Regional Director of MBAC Akron at the Akron Urban League. She spoke to Thompson on the phone, listened to his story, and answered his questions. Then one day Rogers called Thompson back and said there was someone she wanted him to meet. That someone was the owner of a local social club with a kitchen attached to it, a kitchen with no one running it.
Rogers set up a meeting with the three of them to make the necessary introductions, and then she left it to them to work out the details. After all was said and done, Thompson ended up with his own carryout restaurant running out of the social club’s kitchen.
Thompson gratefully acknowledges that MBAC Akron and Rogers were the perfect fit to help him with his questions, and a huge part of the process for him. “The part AUL and Misty played for me was huge. I don’t think she really understands how much it really means to me.”
Ogarth’s Kitchen not only has a carryout restaurant and a Facebook page, but it’s also about to have a food trailer after all. Thompson recently purchased the food trailer and has it ready for inspection, which he said is slated to happen in February. So, keep an eye out for the mobile version of Ogarth’s Kitchen at local festivals this spring and summer!