There’s no mistaking the Caribbean vibes as you enter Baton Rouge’s Bullfish Bar and Kitchen.
“It’s an experience. It’s a destination” said Jasmine Lombrage. “We always say there’s no passport necessary to come to Bullfish, especially now.”
Chef Angel Lombrage and his wife Jasmine immigrated to the United States to chase their American Dreams; she to become a dentist and he to own his own restaurant.
“He just loves cooking and creating new dishes and making people happy” said Jasmine. “He’s the happiest when he’s in the kitchen.”
For decades, Chef ran some of the biggest kitchens in find dining; traveling the world to open and train Chef’s at Ruth’s Chris steakhouses, before making Baton Rouge home and becoming the Executive Chef of VooDoo Barbecue. But it wasn’t until one year ago that their dream became a reality.
“We’ve invested everything, we put everything that we own and our savings… we even used our home as collateral to get this dream started.”
But like any business in it’s infantile stage, Bullfish had their challenges. It was a rocky first six months, but things finally started looking up around the holidays.
“Things started to pick up and we were like ‘yes, we can make this work'” Jasmine said. “We started believeing ‘yes we can make this work’ and then we had the pandemic and that changed.”
“I couldn’t count how many nights I spent where I was not sleeping because I was afraid we were going to lose our home” Jasmine said. “If we lost our business, we would lose our home and that was the arrangement we made.”
As stay at home orders were issued, businesses and restaurants started to close or move to take out and delivery orders only. For these restauranteurs who had only been in business a few months, they struggled to make ends meet.
“There were days that we were here from 11-8 and I would have to call the phones to make sure that they were working” Jasmine said.
Not only did they risk losing their home and business, the health and safety of their daughter’s- one who is immunocompromised and on the autism spectrum- was also at risk.
“Am I going to keep my doors open and bring people in so I don’t lose the business or am I going to have people come in right now- especially in the early stages when we don’t know what’s going on- and take something home and get my child sick and possibly lose her life” said Jasmine. “Which one do I live with?”
Their story is resonating with millions around the world. A GoFundMe page to support their family and the business raised more than $80,000 in one week.
It’s a catch 22 families and small business owners are facing across our community. The Lombrage’s have decided that although restaurants can reopen at limited capacities, they’ll continue with patio seating and take out orders only for now. Jasmine homeschools her girls at the restaurant and wants to keep them as safe as possible. As they forge ahead focusing on their faith and family, they have an important message for the community.
“Take these guidelines seriously. It could be your life you’re saving today” Jasmine said. “Secondly, come out and support all local small business. A lot of us are making a lot of sacrifices to be here for you so this is a time that all small businesses need you to come out and show your support.”
Jasmine says they are currently looking to expand their staff and are actively hiring. To inquire about a position, find contact information here.