Creciendo Juntos

Creciendo Juntos


Photo by Tom Daly

In our September monthly “Latinx Brillante” spotlight, we’ll be featuring Javier Figueroa Ray, the Owner and Executive Chef of a local restaurant, Pearl Island Foods. Pearl Island is located inside the Jefferson School City Center and has amazing Caribbean and Hatian cuisine to serve and cater. Their food brings a touch of love and sense of home to anyone who tries their food. Personally, I’m a big fan! My go-to dish is the ‘Caribbean Seasoned Slow Roasted Pulled Pork’ Platter with their tropical Lemonade drinks. If meat is not your thing, they also serve Vegan and Vegetarian platters!

It’s also worth mentioning that he’s the winner of the Tom Tom Fest’s 2008 Iron Chef Competition.

All the way from Puerto Rico, Javier arrived in D.C., in the early 2000s, with his first job as a case manager with a non-profit organization, Community Connection. However, his wife at the time was pursuing a PHD at University of Virginia and this led them to make the decision to move into Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2008.

Right on, I noticed that Javier’s working experiences were in the medical field and not in the culinary field. This prompted me to ask him “How did you become the Executive Chef of Pearl Island in Charlottesville?”

Javier paused and reflected. “Well, back home, to tell you the truth, I never cooked at all.” He admitted. “My mom cooked and [she] would do whatever recipes were like in the Cosmopolitan magazine.”

He explained that his grandmother was a traditional lady. He mainly focuses on attending school. “But then I moved. So, I started remembering the stuff that I learned from them.”

Javier explained that overtime he began to appreciate cooking and see it as his form of art. During the week, he would work at the health department and during the weekend, he would be cooking somewhere in some restaurant. “So, through my career,” he continued, “[I started] working first with adults and then moving into working with children and families.” Javier found cooking as a sense of comfort through many jobs over the years, it was a grounding activity.

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