Interview with Claudette Hutchinson
Co-Owner of Spice Island Grill
10 N. Sierra Madre Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Spice Island Grill is a veteran on our list of destinations for our Original Colorado Springs Food Tour in Colorado Springs. We are the first to admit that we love their food! But we’re not the only ones. Our guests enjoy their flavorful and unique menu alongside their welcoming atmosphere. A bit off the beaten path behind The Antlers Hotel, Spice Island Grill brings the spicy flare of Jamaica to our community. If you missed it, Guy Fieri recently visited them on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives!
We sat down with co-owner Claudette to find out more about this local favorite.
How does Spice Island Grill differ from other restaurants?
As a family operated restaurant, I think we add a very personal touch. We understand that Spice Island Grill is a business. However, we love our customers dearly and like to welcome everyone and treat them like family. We enjoy offering the best quality dishes, cooked as if in our kitchens at home, and offered with fine restaurant quality.
How did you get into the restaurant industry, and what was your vision when you opened Spice Island Grill?
The restaurant industry pulled us in unexpectedly. As vegetarians, I had to spend a lot of time creating food for the family that was healthy, tasty, and filling. This led to a passion that I didn’t realize I had. Friends and family encouraged us to open a restaurant. So, we started out at a food vendor selling jerk chicken at fairs and festivals. We would always get a great response and soon realized we were on to something. My vision for Spice Island Grill is to offer our spices retail, which are gluten free, vegan-friendly, and vegetarian. I’d like to expand to other locations in Colorado and be a Colorado-based company. And one day, I see us having our own show on one of the food channels, teaching people how to prepare healthy and fresh island dishes at a low cost.
You have the national dish of Jamaica on your menu. Can you tell us about it?
We offer a unique, but typical Jamaican, range of options. One of the most unique menu options is Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Salt Fish. Ackee is a fruit; however, we prepare it like a vegetable and pair it with salted or cured fish. Salted cod is the traditional pairing for the ackee. The fruit has the texture of silken tofu and the appearance of scrambled egg yolks. However, the taste is incomparable. Customers describe it as having a citrus taste, and like tofu, it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with such as the onions and spices and the salted cod.
Are there any fun facts or secrets about how Spice Island Grill’s menu was created?
Our menu was created from various family recipes. I take all the best aspects of my aunt, mom, and Grandmother’s recipes, tailor it to our location and the availability of the ingredients, and customize them based on my vegetarian focus. So, while we serve meats, we make sure that the ingredients are fresh and preservative-free.
Do you sell your spices and rubs? If so, how might someone buy them?
Our sauces and rubs are made in-house with fresh ingredients. We package and jar our rubs and spices for retail sale. We are working on adding a retail section to our website; however, currently you can call and have it shipped to you or you can come to restaurant in person.
Claudette, we know that you and your husband, Glenroy, are vegetarians. What are your favorite things to eat from your menu?
When we started the restaurant, one of our main goals was to make sure our vegetarian guests had a great dining experience. We’ve experienced dining out and not having many options, and so we vowed we wouldn’t do that to our vegetarian customers. We love the Tofu Chick Pea Curry and the Rasta Bean Stew. The bean stew was my favorite dish to make at home, because it is hearty, filling, and healthy. I used to make it so much that Glenroy nicknamed me “Beans.”
What is the latest food trend that you find yourself following or inspired by?
I am huge foodie. I like to stay up to date on all aspects vegetarianism and beyond. Currently, I am very intrigued with the raw and the ketogenic way of eating. I am learning all aspects of the anti-inflammatory diet. As a member of the sandwich generation, where I currently have my mother and mother-in-law living with us, I take more interest in serving the best diet options to keep them healthy and vibrant, along with my children, Glen, and myself as we age.
In Jamaica we typically use a lot of local herbs and spices, vegetables, coconut oils, and milks in our cooking. At the restaurant we also use coconut milk in most of our cooking. We use all fresh herbs and spices, as a way to transfer the best of what I am learning to our clientele. Currently at home, my diet mainly consists of fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sour kraut, and artichokes. I also make my own coconut oils, milk and yogurt, and other nut oils, green juices and low sugar smoothies.
You often refer to Spice Island Grill as the “Island in the Springs.” What about your restaurant gives your customers the feeling of being in Jamaica?
The phrase actually came from my customers. A lot of customers would walk in and say they are taken back to their island vacation or back home to the islands. Spice Island Grill is tucked back in what seems like a getaway location. With reggae playing in the background, the vibrant colors and the smell of jerk on the grill when you walk through the door, our customers are immediately taken back to their favorite island spot right here in Colorado Springs.
What events, specials, etc. does Spice Island Grill have throughout the week?
We offer Happy Hour Tuesday through Thursday from 4:00-6:00pm. During this time, there are reduced prices on beers and cocktails and 1/2 off appetizers. We also sometimes have live bands and reggae concerts and parties.
What are some of your values as a business owner?
As a business owner, I value “Integrity First.” This is a value I learned from my 24 years in the U.S. Air Force. For us, integrity is key. Integrity in the value and quality of the food we serve, the service we provide to our customers, and our day-to-day interactions with our business partners and community.
Spice Island Grill will celebrate its six-year anniversary this August. How will you celebrate?
Spice Island Grill will celebrate our anniversary on August 19 and 20. On Saturday (August 19), we will have live bands, games, and activities with a beach theme. On Sunday (August 20), we will have a customer appreciation barbecue and offer complimentary food for our supporters.
And finally…if you were stranded on a desert island and could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would that be?
Without a doubt, if I were stranded on a desert island I would eat coconut. Coconut is a whole food and offers all aspects of what our body needs including water, oil, meat, and milk. Its husk can be used for fire, and its shell can be used to make eating utensils and bowls.
Thanks, Claudette! Keep doing what you’re doing and bringing the island flavors to downtown Colorado Springs.
If you’d like to check out Spice Island Grill, hop on our Original Colorado Springs Food Tour offered every Saturday and Sunday!
Cheers, Your Rocky Mountain Food Tours Team