Gettin’ together and feelin’ alright
This summer, there will be a new scent wafting through Lake Junaluska.
Originally located on the Old Asheville Highway outside of Canton, the One Love restaurant has taken over the former Granny’s Chicken Palace building on Dellwood Road. Specializing in authentic Jamaican culinary delights, the establishment aims to continue their quest of introducing something special to the palates of Southern Appalachia. Their grand opening is expected to be Friday, May 31.
“I want people to come here and be happy, to see and eat something different,” said head chef and co-owner Patrick Bulgin. “I think people here are looking for something unique, and I came here into this area to fill that gap.”
Born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Bulgin spent his childhood watching his mother, a beloved culinary matron in her own right, cook for celebrities like Johnny Cash, who would visit the area, stay in guest houses and fill their bellies with genuine Jamaican fare.
“I learned all of my techniques from my mother,” the 54-year-old said. “It’s all about paying attention to the food and the ingredients. You don’t just come here in the morning and start, you must prepare and set it all up before coming in.”
And prepare he does. Marinating his meats for the better part of two days, Bulgin offers a variety of Jamaican jerk (jerk meaning “spicy”) chicken, pork, shrimp and ribs. Yes, the food can get quite hot and flavorful, but Bulgin assures those curious of the food that each meal can be perfectly tailored to any desire, from subtle to mild, sweet to spicy – it’s all about figuring out just what the customer wants.
“Our food is really smooth, and it can be made spicy if you want it to be,” he said. “Your customer is going to eat it, and you want them to feel good about what they’re eating; you want them to digest it all and enjoy it.”
With his mother’s kitchen wisdom, Bulgin left Montego Bay for New York City when he was 21. He got his start at a successful Jewish seafood restaurant. Their business model impressed Bulgin to the point where he still holds close the techniques and ideals he learned there, and employs them with each new endeavor in which he finds himself.
“You have to always remember that your reputation is right behind your food,” he said. “It’s all about a clean presentation and tastiness, which is what Jamaican food is all about.”
After his tenure in the Big Apple, Bulgin soon found himself in Western North Carolina. He opened a couple of moderately successful places in Hendersonville. The food and intent was pure, but the crowd never seemed to wander in through the door.
“Some people can be [apprehensive] of Jamaican food because they think it’s too spicy, but we can do it anyway for you,” he said. “But, there is a lot of love put into this food, and into eating it. It’s the quality and respect between each other, where you sit down to eat and you can feel the love at the table, and you want to come back.”
From there, Bulgin bounced around the state before ended up in Canton, where he opened the original One Love location — named after the song “One Love/People Get Ready” by Bob Marley & The Wailers — in 2011. Focusing solely on Jamaican delights, the menu is filled with meat and vegetables, all cooked with coconut or olive oil, with an emphasis on seasoning and spice rather than salt, which Bulgin stays away from as much as possible.
“People want something more natural, so I use a lot of coconut and olive oil,” he said. “It speaks to me when people come in and I cook, they taste it, and they want to know who the cook is. It makes me happy and wanting to do better.”
The restaurant soon found the following Bulgin always knew was possible in this area. The business grew to the point it was time to find a bigger, more appropriate location – cue Lake Junaluska.
“Growing up in Jamaica, I was around all of that love Bob Marley and Peter Tosh sang about,” he said. “Bob spoke a lot about love and peace, and here it’s all about positivity.”
With the grand reopening just days away, Bulgin glances out the window at the fast-paced vehicles zooming up and down Dellwood Road. The sun is shining on Western North Carolina. The last details of One Love are being finalized. Soon, the doors will open, with tourists and residents alike eager to try the culinary essence of Jamaica.
“If you’re anywhere outside of the restaurant, even far away, you’ll smell how good it is,” he smiled. “I really dedicate myself to cooking, and I think this location is perfect. I’m really looking forward to it all.”