Widower and son pushing on for their ‘angel’
Young couple Kemar and Latifa Maybury fulfilled a shared dream when they launched the Smokin' Barrel food truck together on Front Street four years ago.
But having lost his wife to cancer in 2013 just six months after their son was born, Mr Maybury is now going it alone — and he is determined to make the business bigger and better in her memory.
“I almost feel like Latifa's an angel,” he said. “The fact I'm still here with a sound mind to pick myself up and push forward is a miracle in itself.
“When I think about what her and I did, I'm able to keep pushing. It's definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”
Mr Maybury took a step back from Smokin' Barrel this year when he realised his infant son Khaleel needed his full attention.
His brother, Keerome, bought into the business, bringing in a new chef from the United States, and Mr Maybury took time out to deal with his grief and spend time with his son. But now the 34-year-old is planning to juggle single fatherhood with a return to the Front Street food truck and the launch of a new venture: Smokin' Barrel at Bulldogs sports bar on Court Street.
“The reality is, it just became overwhelming,” he told The Royal Gazette. “I just said, ‘I have to stop'. I made the decision to step away to focus on myself and on Khaleel.
“There is no way you can go through a situation like that and not deal with some depression. I really needed to start focusing on Khaleel.
“I was working day and night and missing a lot of moments in his development. I made the decision to take an extended leave and just focus on my situation.”
Mr Maybury and his wife, who was originally from Morocco, married in 2009 and set up Smokin' Barrel in 2011. They built up a loyal customer base selling takeout burgers and jerk chicken, among other popular menu items.
In 2012, the couple discovered they were expecting a child but what neither realised — and what prenatal checks and two ER visits failed to pick up — was that Mrs Maybury had colorectal cancer.
It was discovered when she gave birth to Khaleel a month early in May 2013, but was already at stage four. Six months later, Mrs Maybury died at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
Her husband said the months he took out from the business helped him to deal with his bereavement and build up a strong father-son relationship with Khaleel.
Now he feels ready to get back to work — officially opening a new kitchen and an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Bulldogs in the New Year and returning some favourite items to the menu on Front Street.
“What people need to understand is there is only one King of the Barrel,” he said, adding that customers could expect to see burgers back at the food truck, which has been offering a Texan barbecue-themed menu.
The Bulldogs kitchen is already up and running, with Mr Maybury joining forces with his original Smokin' Barrel chef Arthur “Jimmy” Sinclair, from Jamaica, to offer food at lunchtimes and on Friday evenings.
“We are offering sweet jerk, beef ribs, homestyle mac and cheese, homestyle rice and peas, burgers and poutine with a Caribbean twist,” he said. “We are going to keep the menu very simple. The jerk is the best on the Island.”
Bulldogs is in the old Chewstick building and Mr Maybury said some people might not consider it the best location, compared with Front Street, but he saw it as a “great opportunity”.
“Court Street is the heart of Hamilton,” he added. “It's where everything begins and stops. If people come there and support the businesses there, they'll see it's not just about the rest of the city. There is a lot of culture and talent that's back there that goes unseen.”
When he is not working, Mr Maybury is focused on his little boy — a “vibrant ball of energy” who wakes up the household each day at 7.30am.
“I would consider Khaleel to be a miracle baby,” said Mr Maybury, of the two-year-old. “He's very healthy and I feel very blessed. But he looks for that mother figure and that's something he doesn't have right now. There is no way I can replace Latifa.
“Some days you don't want to get out of bed but if you have someone like that coming to wake you up, that's the best reason to get up.”
The husband of a young mother who had terminal cancer diagnosed days after their son was born is planning to sue Bermuda Hospitals Board for medical negligence.
Kemar Maybury told The Royal Gazette he had instructed a lawyer to start proceedings after efforts to get BHB to admit liability in the case involving his wife, Latifa, had failed.
Mrs Maybury died at the age of 30 in November 2013, six months after the couple’s son, Khaleel, was born.
Her stage four cancer was discovered during labour after going unnoticed throughout her pregnancy, despite regular prenatal checks and two visits to the emergency room.
“I am not going to stop until I feel justice has been served,” said Mr Maybury, 34. “I refuse to. My son [is] in a situation where he doesn’t have a mother.”
BHB previously said Mrs Maybury’s death was “not related to the care and advice that was provided by BHB’s emergency department”.
Asked to comment yesterday, a board spokeswoman said: “Our sympathies remain with the family of Latifa Maybury but we are unable to respond as this is now a legal matter.”
Ombudsman Victoria Pearman conducted an investigation into the case but her report is not publicly available.