(pictured above: Irie Rhythms owners Gorjean and Warren Moore.)
It’s where “Winston meets Kingston.”
That’s the catchphrase for Warren and Gorjean Moore’s new Silas Creek Crossing restaurant, Irie Rhythms.
Irie is a Jamaican word that means “good” and rhythms relates to the couple’s background in music and dance, as well as the smooth Jamaican tunes that constantly play in the restaurant, which specializes in Southern and Jamaican foods and a combination of them both.
“This is a true fusion restaurant,” said Warren. “This is different from any Jamaican restaurant in the Triad … because we don’t only do just Jamaican food, we do them both and Georjean fuses them very well.”
Jamaican standards like jerk chicken, curry shrimp and ox tails are on the menu, as are Southern classics like collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese. The cultures collide on menu options like the popular Tropical Coleslaw, which is infused with mandarin oranges, pineapple and coconut.
Plantain and sweet potato chips are available, as are a variety of Jamaican sodas. Some of the desserts, including the banana pudding cake, pineapple coconut cake and sweet potato cheesecake, are made fresh by Clemmons-based Lei Lei’s Cuisine. Others, like the ever-popular mango cheesecake, are made in-house.
Georgjean, a native of Queens, N.Y., is Irie’s culinary force. A first generation American, her family hails from Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. She calls her grandmother and uncle, “The best cooks I know.” Talent in the kitchen must be in the genes. Georgjean’s recipes even dazzled her culinary school instructors at Johnson and Wells University in Charlotte, where she graduated with a perfect GPA.
“ I’m very proud of my roots and my culture and decided to fuse everything we love from the culture (and) my husband’s culture; he’s from Winston and I’m the Kingston,” she said.
Colorful, clean and high tech, the restaurant looks less like a small eatery and more like the franchise that the couple is hoping it becomes. The front counter has a sleek, computerized Clover registers, menus displayed on digital monitors and an assortment of popular foods ready to be served. There’s also a 51-inch flat screen TV and free wifi for customers to enjoy.
“We didn’t want a mom and pop feel; we wanted to focus on good food, good customer service and a good dining experience,” said Warren.
The couple brings a lot of experience to their newest venture. Georjean is a noted local dancer with a degree in fine art and dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has performed ballet in Europe and West African dance throughout the country as part of the Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble, for which she served as artistic director. She has also played Mary in the N.C. Repertory Company’s hit holiday musical “Black Nativity.”
She met her husband while teaching dance at Carver High School, where he was the band director. Having children limited her ability to travel as a dancer, so she pursued her other passion: cooking.
After culinary school, she was a sous chef at Wake Forest University and started her own catering business with her husband, GEM (her initials) in the Kitchen. The couple also ran the Blue Note Cafe in the Hiram H. Ward Federal Building. They changed the theme of the cafe’s menu each day to include Jamaican, Asian and Italian foods.
Warren, who earned a master’s degree in music from UNCG after completing his undergraduate studies at Winston-Salem State University, mostly handles the business end of the couple’s culinary ventures.
It’s a challenge that is compounded by his coloboma of the retina, an eye defect that has left him practically blind since birth. He zooms text to read from on a computer screen and uses a magnifier for printed material. To help equip himself for culinary management, he took classes through the NC Division of Services for the Blind’s Business Enterprise Program, which teaches visually impaired people how to work in the food service industry.
“You learn to work with what you have (and) ask for assistance when you need it. It’s never been really a handicap for me,” he said. “I credit my parents for that because when I was younger, they told me never use it as a crutch and that I could do anything I wanted to do.”
The Moores have four children; the oldest, Brianna, works at the restaurant and will be following in her mother’s footsteps this fall by attending Johnson And Wales. After completing the school’s culinary arts program, Brianna is hoping to start her own culinary venture.
Brianna is one of more than a dozen Irie Rhythms employees. They include cooks who are being trained by Gorjean. The team wears smart green uniforms with black caps. Though it only opened two weeks ago, business has been “amazing,” say the Moores, who are crediting positive word of mouth for the steady stream of customers. Food delivery will be added soon. Expansion to multiple locations is also on the couple’s radar.
“I married the right person and she married the right person because we’re both not only ambitious, but we’re driven,” said Warren.
Irie Rhythms (www.irierhythms.com) is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday in Silas Creek Crossing, which is the shopping center across from Hanes Mall. The restaurant will be hold a grand opening on Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m.