Posted by Victor Fiorillo on January 4th, 2012
David Ansill has had quite the career in Philadelphia. He started out bartending for Stephen Starr at the Bank (remember the Bank?!). He’s worked at Serrano, Continental, Lucy’s Hat Shop, Judy’s and the South Street Copa. Then he developed a cult following at Pif in Queen Village, closed that to open the doomed Ansill on Bainbridge (where Judy’s once stood), and somehow landed at meat-market Ladder 15 on Sansom Street, where he works today. And now, he’s ready to bid us farewell and take up residency in Jamaica.
Last night, as he gulped down a couple tumblers of red wine, he told me that he has reached the end of his career in Philadelphia. “What else am I going to do here?” asked the 53-year old. “I like to smoke pot. Lots of pot. And I need to go somewhere that I can do that.”
Ansill says he took off for an impromptu trip to Jamaica after a falling out with Stephen Starr over a real estate deal about a year-and-a-half ago, using Starr’s nonrefundable deposit to fund the trip.
“I had to get out of town,” explains Ansill. While on the island, he smoked lots of marijuana, drank lots of Red Stripe, and, through a friend whose name is apparently “26,” met a Bombay-born Jamaican businesswoman named Toral Chudasama. She’d taken over her family’s Wild Parrot Catamaran company after her brother, who had been running the business, huffed an amyl nitrate and fell off a cliff. And when she met Ansill, she had recently debuted the Wild Parrot Guest Cottages on Negril’s white-sanded Seven Mile Beach. The hotel’s restaurant, Buddy’s Beach Bar & Cafe, is open for breakfast and lunch only.
“I asked her if she wanted to have the best seafood restaurant in Negril,” says Ansill. “And she looked at me and said, ‘What are you talking about? You can cook?’” And so he did cook, teaching the guys she had working there how to make crepes and incorporate local ingredients, like arugula from the nearby mountains, into their menu.
Chudasama was blown away and offered Ansill a job. “She’s paying me good money, in US Dollars, and I get to live in an apartment for free,” says Ansill of the deal. “And she already told the local police, ‘This guy, he likes to smoke ganja, but he’s okay.’” Ansill expects to serve whatever’s local. “If there are no fish on a certain day, then there’s no menu,” he promises.
The chef was in Jamaica ironing out the deal in December but had to get back to Philly quickly as his passport was set to expire in a matter of days. Now that he’s renewed it, he says he’s planning on packing his bags at the end of January: “I’m already booked to do a wedding there on Valentine’s Day.”
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