By Lee Pierre
Living a life that you truly love is everyone’s dream and some dreams do come true.
Colin Lloyd’s parents who hailed from St. Kitts and Nevis moved to England before he was born. He and his four siblings grew up in Nottingham, England making them part of the first generation of the Windrush influx. (Windrush was the name of the ship that brought the first Caribbean people to help rebuild England after the war between 1948 and 1971.)
Growing up in England, he enjoyed playing football and riding bikes with his friends after school, weekends and especially during summer breaks just as much as any other young boy. He especially recalls one significant event in his life. He had just finished hanging out downtown with his friends when an event took place that would change his life forever.
On his walk from downtown home, curiously Colin ventured into the backdoor of a restaurant. “I was on my way home and passed this grand door, peeked in, and realized it was the kitchen of a restaurant. I went in and asked if they needed anyone to wash their pots.” He thought it would be a great way to earn money during the summer.”
After getting permission from his parents, he started working during the summer. He enjoyed it so much that his parents allowed him to continue working weekends when school resumed. His curiosity didn’t stop. While in the kitchen, he noticed how much time and effort Chef Dusty put in creating dishes like his meringue swan, a dish that caught Colin’s eye. When the chef asked if he was interested in learning how to prepare meals, Colin jumped at the chance and made the decision that after high school he would attend Clarendon College of Arts taking two years of Culinary Arts and two years of Restaurant Management. Being part of the culinary sector, allowed Colin opportunities to travel the world as he further learned and experienced new cuisines. He worked all through college taking culinary jobs in numerous settings.
His college friend, David, informed him that he had just secured jobs for them both in Bermuda at the Princess Resort. Colin said he moved there in 1985 and stayed for fifteen years working at other exclusive resorts during Bermuda’s Princess Resort off seasons.
He left the Caribbean and headed to Charlotte, NC, in 2001 with his pregnant wife for the birth of their son. From there, he accepted a job at Emory College, Atlanta, GA as executive chef. The first big event he had to prepare was for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. After being there for three years, he returned to Bermuda where he and his friend, Greg, opened their own restaurants, Greg’s Steakhouse, with one located in downtown Hamilton, Bermuda.
On his second stint in Bermuda, he got the opportunity to work at the Princess Hotel in Mexico and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. After working in Bermuda, he began working in St. Kitts and Nevis, the place where his parents were born.
When he became ready for his next move, he had to choose between a job offer in the Virgin Islands and Hotel Roanoke. Fortunately for the Roanoke Valley, he decided to come to this area. From 2016-2020, he was the executive chef at the Regency Room at Hotel Roanoke. The Covid pandemic resulted in many employees being laid off; Colin was one of them. After waiting several months, he applied for a position with Meriwether-Godsey Inc. He researched the company and decided it was “a good fit” for him and refers to it as a ‘boutique company.’ “They’re not like the Sodexo or Aramark, they are smaller and they service smaller schools. Their idea is to serve restaurant level food in the places they service.”
As “Executive Chef” at Hollins University, he agrees with that concept and he was also won over by the idea of having holidays off! “Last year was the first time I’ve ever been off for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s! Plus, I feel good about being there. The energy of academia, new beginnings, learning – there’s real positive energy about the school and I’m looking forward to celebrating my first year there.”
Meriwether-Godsey is a recipe driven business with thousands of recipes from which to choose. The menu is set by the corporate chefs however Colin has the flexibility to substitute items he feels are better suited for Hollins’ population. It may sound simple but it’s not. Colin is responsible for training the staff to follow the set guidelines, ensuring that enough food is prepared, listing ingredients in case someone has an allergy, making certain there is consistency in the preparing of the food and ordering all the food. “It’s like a play. Once the curtain goes up, you have to act whether you’re ready or not.”
Though the menus are preset, Colin has found a way to add a touch of his own style from time to time. He creates “monotony breakers” such as International Curry Day, Cupcake Day, Spanish Paella Day among plenty others, allowing him to display his creativity.
He stresses his love of cooking is reinforced through the instant gratification he receives when the students compliment the food and works to instill “doing your best” in others. “I have a diverse staff and I coach them to do better.”
As he looks back on his life, he realizes that he could have been anything he put his mind to be. “That has always been part of me whatever I decided to do I wanted to be the best at it.”