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Curtis keeps the spirit through rocky waters

Curtis Azhar is unemployed, but working towards change.

He had been with Spirit of Bermuda for a month when Covid-19 hit the island and the sloop was forced into dock.

The chef is grateful for his family's support, and the government benefits he has received since March. Together, they have kept him and his ten-year-old daughter, Royal, afloat through “a rough year” in which he also lost his father, Robert Douglas, a senior with Alzheimer's disease who had been missing for a month prior, and separated from his wife.

“There have been plenty of tears, but after you shed your tears, after you've had that moment, you pick yourself up and keep on moving,” Mr Azhar said.

With his daughter's security in mind, his plan is to find work as a personal chef preparing meals for clients based on their specific needs.

“I'd done a South Beach Diet for a lady a while back and [she recently contacted me] saying how she would be interested to do that routine again.”

A “lightbulb went off”, said Mr Azhar whose extensive résumé lists a stint as head of catering for Spirit of Bermuda several years ago and work with the Little Venice Group, Agape House and Bermuda Aviation Services.

“I said I think I could make something of this, especially in these times. People are still going to want to eat restaurant-style food, but if I bring it to them it could be something different.”

Before he rejoined the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, he was “doing a lot of hustling” and worked at Sensational Delights on Victoria Street.

“I got back on Spirit of Bermuda probably in February, so just as we were starting to hear about Covid, and in March when Bermuda shut down that was it. Really, I've just been surviving off unemployment ever since,” Mr Azhar said.

“I honestly thought after a few years of being a bit unsettled with unemployment ... the opportunity to get back on Spirit, I saw it as a perfect moment. When I started the job there was the risk of Covid, but nobody expected it to be the monster that it turned out to be.”

He took his plight to Facebook, desperate to get to work because “I didn't see a lot of options at that time”.

“At first we had hope that in the next month or so things would start happening, things would start picking up again but now ... I have to work.

“It's just another way of trying to expand my options. I see it as something that could be very much viable, but I'm really just at the beginning of it.

“If I could end up with three, four, five people, I'd be happy; six would probably be my cut-off for the month.

“In the early stages of it especially, I want to make sure that I can offer the service and it's of a high standard.”

Based on his previous model Mr Azhar hopes to attract people interested in daily meals made using “fresh products”. The 48-year-old is happy to cater “no matter what budget” a person has to work with.

“It doesn't take much time to cook it, it's just as much time delivering it and whatnot. I just want to make sure every single time I push something out it would be something they're more than comfortable with and happy paying for at the price.”

He got started in the kitchen at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club before moving to the Little Venice Group, where he was “fortunate” to be sent to Italy for three months' training.

He gained further experience on his return, at Fourways Inn, Harbourfront “and a couple different places within the Little Venice Group”. At Agape House he learnt about “cooking for specific diets”.

“The experiences that I've had working professionally have definitely put me in a unique position where I could really make something of [my idea],” he said. “And the beautiful thing about it, if by chance things were to go better than I expected, I have a few Bermudian chef friends that are more than willing to come in.”

It's all with his daughter in mind.

“She's homeschooled. So the weeks that I have her, she could be right alongside me doing her schoolwork while I'm in the kitchen doing what I have to do.

“My priority right now is making sure that I can be a proper support for her. I have to do whatever I have to do, to sacrifice to make sure in the time she's with me she's secure. I've just got to keep the faith. I'm a God-fearing man, so I've just got to keep the faith and believe in my abilities. But ... it's been a rough year.”

Contact Curtis Azhar on 703-1424 or royalzmyah@hotmail.com

Food for thought: Curtis Azhar, pictured with his daughter, Royal, is hoping to start a catering business after Covid-19 left him unemployed as a chef

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Published July 17, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 17, 2020 at 8:01 am)

Curtis keeps the spirit through rocky waters

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