Angela (right) and her husband Alan. (Photo by Andrew Craft / The Brooklyn Ink)
Nestled on the corner of Nostrand Ave. and Jefferson Ave. on the main strip of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Angela’s is unassuming, without any large signs. One of the owners, Alan Whyte, says they “have absolutely no budget for advertising.” They simply rely on word of mouth; the food speaks for itself.
The restaurant is empty. It is the hottest day of the summer thus far, and the stillness of the air is punctuated with intermittent breezes coming through the open floor-length windows. The smell of lemon permeates the air. The staff suggests the special: stuffed red snapper.
The preparations and process are comparable to surgery. Cutting the Caribbean-caught snapper in two, Angela fills it with okra, carrots, spinach and peppers. She handles it delicately, treating it like a work of art. Then, after dressing the snapper, she starts pouring white wine in what seem like neverending flows. It is wrapped in foil and ready to be put on the grill. Rich in flavor and not too filling, it is a delicious summer meal.
Angela’s demeanor is calm and gracious. She speaks in low tones. “The New York Times did a piece about us, and the reporter never even identified themselves,” she says. She presents the finished meal proudly; a smile beams confidently across her face.
At the age of 9 years old, Angela Pellew-Whyte knew she wanted to be a cook. Born and raised in the South American nation of Guyana, she is one of nine children. Her father owned a farm, and she helped him pick vegetables as a daily chore. She assured herself of her passion when she would attend large get-togethers, called “bushcooks.” These are large gatherings of community members preparing food outside—much like American barbecues. There, she would prove to be a leader and take charge of the cooking. Most of the cuisine revolved around caught fish. Twenty-six years later, Angela and her husband Alan live in Bed-Stuy, owning and operating “Angela’s,” a restaurant specializing in Caribbean fusion items.
Angela’s story is one of drive and resilience. In 1997, she opened her restaurant in the exact same location where it stands today. She closed it in 2004. This wasn’t necessarily a trial for her, but she says it was a trial for the neighborhood. She now accepts that Bed-Stuy is fully ready for Angela’s. The re-branded Angela’s has been open since October 2015 and is doing well in the gentrified neighborhood.
Alan notes that a lot of tourists and Manhattanites travel to eat there. “It’s not just food; it’s an authentic lifestyle,” he says. “It’s about the experience.” They are not just catering to the neighborhood, but to all palates. Angela says that she really wants it to be a fusion of styles. She gets bored only cooking her own specialty dishes, and has added other ethnic foods, such as Italian and Spanish items. Health is also a main ingredient in their food products. Alan, a Jamaican native but a proud New Yorker, has supported Angela since the re-opening and is the business manager of the establishment.
Angela says she has solidified her passion for cooking but is not quite done yet. She wants to someday open a food kitchen for disadvantaged children in Bed-Stuy. She notes that there are a lot of hungry people in the neighborhood and does her best to offer meals when she can, saying, “That child could be a child right next door who is hungry.” At the conclusion of the meal, Angela really drives home her philosophy: “I couldn’t find myself doing anything else,” she says. “I never give up on cooking.”