If your #girlboss mantra is #dreambig, and food is your passion, meet Fallon Seymour. With not one but two New York City restaurants to her credit — Pop’s and Pearl’s — the former model dishes on what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated restaurant field. Seymour’s is a story many of us creative types may hope to emulate, whether we start a business in order to travel the world, achieve the kind of work-life balance we desire, or just to want to get our *make* on.
Seymour arrived at entrepreneurship after a globe-trotting modeling career, followed by marriage, raising a family, and finding her dream loft in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. We sat down to hear her story and draw inspiration from the life balance she has found. She credits having a great staff at the restaurant — who, after 10 years of working so closely together, have become like a family — for much of her freedom to be able to accomplish everything she needs to do each day.
Brit + Co: You were born and raised in Trinidad, then travelled the world as a model, so how did you settle in Brooklyn?
Fallon Seymour: Before I got married, I had been to many places around the world and have lived all over New York — except for Brooklyn. After meeting my now-husband John, we decided to move to Bushwick because we wanted a spacious loft… spacious being the operative word. And as you might have guessed, I instantly fell in love with Brooklyn. There’s an energy and vibe unlike any other place. And with the large loft as an added plus, I won’t be moving back to the city anytime soon.
B+C: How did you come to open your restaurant Pearl? Did you have trouble finding good Trinidadian food in New York?
FS: You know, there’s a problem when you’ve been living in Williamsburg for close to six years and still find yourself driving out to Queens or deep Brooklyn for Trini food. There are so many different restaurants in Williamsburg; you can find almost every type of cuisine here… except Caribbean! The neighborhood was in serious need of some island vibes.
B+C: Did you always aspire to become a restaurateur?
FS: My love and passion for cooking and food started when I was a young girl still living in Trinidad. My grandmother, Pearl, taught me everything I know. And, as you’ve probably guessed, she is the inspiration for Pearl’s. Opening a restaurant is something I always dreamed of doing, but I never imagined I would open two restaurants in New York.
B+C: What do you hope diners take away with them?
FS: With Pearl’s, I wanted to expose the neighborhood to Caribbean culture… and what better way to do that than through authentic, great tasting Trinidadian food?! This is a place where both West Indians and everyone else can come and enjoy the food, music, and vibes. I am very proud of where I come from, so to see customers enjoying themselves at the restaurant inspired by my grandmother is very rewarding.
B+C: Is whipping up Caribbean cuisine at home accessible to the average home cook? What are some dishes a beginner might start with?
FS: If you haven’t tried your hand at cooking Caribbean cuisine — now is the time! At first it may appear intimidating, but there are simple recipes to help get started. There are specific herbs and peppers that go into practically every Trinidadian dish that are not that accessible outside of the Caribbean and Spanish neighborhoods, BUT it’s super easy to substitute them for similar herbs. If you can’t find chadon beni, use cilantro, and instead of pimentos, use any kind of pepper that has flavor but no heat. Trinidadian food, in particular, has specific techniques for cooking an authentic dish. YouTube videos can help a beginner through specific steps that a written recipe may not be able to relay. A macaroni pie with stew chicken is a good starter dish, or a bake. A bake is a type of bread made in the Caribbean, fried or roasted. The best part? It can be eaten with butter or cheese alone.
B+C: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about running a restaurant?
FS: I’m most surprised by the relationships I’ve gained over the years. The restaurant environment is a mix of colorful personalities, from staff to customers. It starts to feel like family. I spend so much time here that it’s like a second home. I look forward to seeing the Pearl’s regulars. And, there are staff that I have known for 10 years, that I have a great love and respect for.
B+C: It’s a field that from appearances at least appears to be dominated by men; do you find that’s true? Or do you meet a lot of other women restaurateurs?
FS: I have not met a lot of other female restaurateurs, but when I do, I make it a point to support them. There’s an understanding and respect among female restaurateurs — being in the industry we have endured similar challenges, and still have gone after our dreams no matter how rocky the road.
B+C: Do your girls get to watch mom in action running Pearl?
FS: They sure do! I have three daughters, all who go to school on the same street as three of our restaurants. I pick them up every day and they usually come back with me to get a juice while we wait on their babysitter. Many times, I take them to the restaurants when there’s no one to watch them. Three girls close in age can get very noisy, so I usually have a plan to keep them entertained while I’m there. Luckily, I have great staff that adore them. They all love to cook with me… one always says she’s going to be my sous chef when she is older.
B+C: Running a restaurant is a 24/7 job. How do you balance everything?
FS: Life is pretty hectic, to say the least. My family is first priority, so I make sure I always make enough time for them. What’s kept me balanced is having a set schedule. With each day set to a schedule I can accomplish ALL the things I need to do. Having a great staff at Pearl’s helps tremendously so I don’t need to worry and micromanage every little thing at the restaurant.
For Caribbean recipes even a beginner can learn, follow us on Pinterest for inspo!
(Photo via @thisgirlfallon / Instagram)