David Trotman is a Bajan with a difference. Unlike the majority of Bajans, he doesn’t have a big family around him. His mother left Barbados when he was a little boy, and he never knew his father.
David was looked after by his Grandmother until she suddenly died when he was just eleven years old. Following this tragic event, David lost the use of his legs – He since regained some mobility, but he has never been able to walk in the same way as before.
However, despite all this, David Trotman is one of the most successful men on the island of Barbados. He owns a busy, thriving restaurant right on the seafront near St Lawrence Gap called ‘David’s Place.’
What’s more, he used to own a leading art gallery called ‘Coffee and Cream.’ He is married to a beautiful Canadian lady, Darla. Her piercing blue eyes and steely determination shone through as she told me David’s and her story.
Darla came to Barbados from Toronto, Canada as a tourist and an artist. She showed me her artwork, and it is breathtakingly real, with a delicate attention to detail that only the most precise, patient artist could achieve.
While in Barbados painting the beautiful landscapes, seascapes and vibrant people Darla met David in a jazz nightclub. His energy, warmth and people skills bowled her over, and she fell head over heels in love.
David is vivacious, infectious and fantastic with people and it didn’t take long before Darla married David and moved to the island. Darla’s art skills, organization, and passion fused with David’s people skills and contacts to create the ‘Coffee and Cream’ art gallery in St Lawrence Gap, which they ran for 16 years.
Darla loved the art gallery and remembers having a lot of fun meeting and chatting with people from the art community. David would often invite people back to their house for dinner as he is always interested and willing to make new friends.
Then one day a client of the art gallery came in and told David that they were selling their restaurant. Darla and David seized the opportunity and bought it.
To begin with, Darla continued to run the art gallery, and David ran the restaurant. However, after a year or two it became too much, so they closed the art gallery and focused solely on ‘David’s Place’ – and it shows.
The interior has been designed by Darla and is kept to a very high standard. Black and white tables and fittings look sharp and dynamic against a backdrop of azure sea and pink sand. The sound of the waves hypnotizes diners as they eat by candlelight in this very romantic setting.
David and Darla work together in harmony, finely blending their complementary yet contrasting skills.
“David is the people person, and I’m behind the scenes. I do all the advertising and organizing which brings in my art experience. Darla explained that the Barbados art scene hadn’t changed very much in the years she’s been here.
“Most of the local art gets sold to tourists. There are a few locals who buy work, but the majority do not. The wealthy who collect art know which artists they like and are very selective buying from local artists.”
She revealed that computers have helped people sell their art abroad, but for the majority it’s difficult. Darla observed that she’d been a bit out of the loop for 15 years (since she gave up the gallery) but when she goes to art shows the art scene is still struggling to make an impact on the global stage.
Now Darla’s energy goes into making their restaurant a success, and she gives it that cutting edge by merely ensuring it is Bajan. “I’m the only staff member that’s not born in Barbados.”
The atmosphere is low key and sophisticated, yet it still has an all Bajan flair. David and Darla employ two cooks, rather than chefs, who know how to produce good home cooked Bajan dishes.
“We tried chefs, and they always tried to change the menu. We didn’t want that; we wanted to serve true Barbadian dishes.”
All the ingredients used at ‘David’s Place’ are local. They use the domestic black-bellied sheep for lamb, and locally raised chickens.
Darla’s advice to restaurateurs in Barbados is to “work it personally! You need to stay involved, hands-on and in control.”
David and Darla have got where they are through serious hard work and dedication. They are open six days a week (closed on Mondays) and the only other times they close are New Year’s Day, Christmas Day (“our staff should be with their families on these holidays”) and the month of July when they close for refurbishment.
During July all of the staff get a month’s holiday. Five of Darla and David’s team have stayed with them right from the beginning, and considering that they have been running David’s Place for 24 years, that is an incredible show of dedication!
And what is their secret to success for all these years?
“We are well organized, and our staff is good.”
One of the long-standing member’s of staff is the manager Lionel, who is an uncle of David’s and has been in the hotel and restaurant business all of his life.
When Darla first came to Barbados, before ‘Coffee and Cream,’ David and Darla didn’t have much money and Lionel would give them the occasional free meal at the restaurant he worked in at the time.
David and Darla always said to him – one day we’ll have our restaurant and you will manage it; lo and behold today they do!
David’s story shows that through hard work you can do anything – especially when you found a partner who is as willing and dedicated as Darla to work by his side and share his dreams.