When that special occasion comes up and one is looking for somewhere special to go, one of the first places that comes to mind is the Jade Garden Restaurant. The name Jade Garden is well known to the people of San Pedro Town when looking for a pleasant place to be with a loved one.
Hoo Wong (Mama Sue) traveled to Belize from Hong Kong in 1961 following the recommendation of some of her relatives here, after the passing away of her husband. Mama Sue arrived with her two children, Soulan (three years) and George Wong (14 months). She had come to a new country not knowing what to expect. Shortly after her arrival (one month to be exact), Belize was struck and partially destroyed by Hurricane Hattie. To Mama Sue and her family this was their introduction to Belize. The Wongs moved in with their family at the Golden Dragon in Belize City were they lived for eight years. Mama Sue's strong character and determination to raise her family was greater than she had known. Mrs. Wong immediately started working as a chef at the China Inn located on Euphrates Avenue in Belize City where she held her position for ten years. Their next step was to move to San Pedro. Mama Sue had previously met Jeanne Bremekamp, owner of the Barrier Reef Hotel in San Pedro and on September 1st, 1981 Jade Garden Restaurant opened for business at the Barrier Reef. The restaurant was solely operated by Mama Sue with the help of her children and one employee helping in the kitchen (all the responsibilities were shared). Their cuisine was well received in the town and a treat to the locals that dined there. Business was good, but in 1989 their lease ended and the Wongs had to look for a new location.
That same year, Jade Garden moved to their new home on Coconut Drive, where it is presently situated. In the meantime, Soulan had moved to the U.S.A., graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Biology. Upon her return she became a teacher in Belize City. George also moved to the U.S. to study but assisted in the duties of the restaurant during his college breaks. He is presently a manager at Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Fiona Elliott joined the Jade Garden staff as a part time worker in 1990 making her way up to her present position as manager. Ms. Elliott who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Marketing, told the San Pedro Sun, "What makes the Jade Garden Restaurant special is the good service, and a nice atmosphere - great for family affairs and other special occasions. We have a permanent staff, some that have been with the restaurant up to ten years." Fiona also added, " Mama Sue holds the business together, she is the foundation of our operation."
The Jade Garden Restaurant can comfortably seat 72 people with a choice of dining in the main dining area, small verandah or the upstairs dining area which is usually reserved for larger groups. They continue to serve the same cuisine they started with. The restaurant is well known for its Cantonese dishes, steaks, egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken wings which seem to be everyone's favorite. They also offer Chinese tea, desserts and whole roasted duck (ordered in advance). The Jade Garden is looking at updating their menu, adding new items in the appetizers, salads and dessert assortments.
The family also has a motto that they go by, "start off small, and work hard, don't overextend and try to owe as little as possible." Mama Sue and her family have come far to introduce that great Cantonese taste to many satisfied customers. The Wong family and Jade Garden staff have rightfully earned the great respect they deserve in "Our Community - La Isla Bonita."
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