The chef who dodged the bullet

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Chef Ocary Campbell poses with his Kitchen Backup System (KBS)

Michael Nattoo – Staff Reporter

“But why would you want to do this Marvin? Come on man, find something else, something better to do.” Ocary Marvin Campbell, as he sat in the offices of the Western Mirror, seemed entranced as he recalled the memory of how he almost became one of the country’s Most Wanted, after he commissioned a welding technician to make him a handgun he had designed. This was almost 20 years ago. Now 42, Campbell has been a chef for 26 years, is the father of 4 – and can now add inventor to that long list of skills.

The enthusiastic chef is now the patented owner and inventor of the Kitchen Backup System (KBS) – a mobile cooking system designed specifically for cases of emergency. And though he has received no more than a secondary education to achieve this feat, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that despite his many professions over the years, the seasoned chef has only been masquerading in those roles, with his true calling being that of an inventor.

“I have always wanted my kids to see me as someone they could look up to,” Campbell revealed of his four kids, one adopted, to the Western Mirror, “and I thought this – inventing things, could be one way I could do that. I wanted them to see me like a Usain Bolt… You know?” Now, Campbell believes he has achieved that to some degree. “Now, my daughter, who is four years old, can’t wait to see me in the evenings, and she loves to cook, or at least she tries to – despite me telling her otherwise,” Campbell laughingly revealed. Despite what observers may consider to be quite the stable life, it hasn’t always been that way for Campbell. In fact, his life now is worlds away from the death sentence it appeared to be then.

STRUGGLES

“Although I was born in MoBay, I moved to Clarendon for 6 years with my mother and stepfather. While there, I was placed at the May Pen Secondary School,” Campbell explained.
This would be the genesis of the struggles that almost pushed him to a life of crime. Campbell revealed that his mother had migrated to the Grand Cayman in the hopes of finding a better job, and his father was barely around at the time. On most days, it was just Campbell and his little brother. “I never got to go to school on Fridays because I had to go and hustle for the two of us. So most Thursdays and Fridays, I would be out on the road trying to get even a piece of bread to take home for me and my brother. As a result, I couldn’t even read, I just knew I had to survive.” With a number of things going downhill for the young Campbell at that point, that was when he decided to design a homemade gun – a move he believed would be his ticket out – out of hardships or out of this life, something had got to give at that point, Campbell believed.

He remembers the day he went to the welding technician, who would ultimately convince him to rethink his decisions. “I wasn’t always this way,” Campbell told the Western Mirror, “I was young and confused, and hungry, and thought that was my way out.” But his resolve was soon shattered when the welding technician, who knew him, reminded him of just how talented he was, and how much promise he had. That one moment of belief, and confidence from someone else in him, drove Campbell away from those thoughts, and onto a path that would see him trying his hand at a number of different things.

THE JACKSON FOUR

Campbell attempted a number of different careers – from washing cars and packing bags in a supermarket, but the most promising times came when he landed a gig in the hotel industry as part of a dancing group – The Jackson Four, “because we couldn’t find a fifth member,” Campbell joked. And though this gig didn’t generate an attractive income, it was better than the life he had planned for himself at the time, so he kept at it. His perseverance would reward him as one fateful day, Campbell recalls dancing in a hotel when “A sweet smell lick mi!” While dancing, Campbell couldn’t help himself, he had to know where the food was, and how to cook it. By then, Campbell was in his early 20s, and was ready for a change, and after tasting the food, he knew exactly what his next career would be. “I went to take classes every day, and although I wasn’t getting paid, I showed up every day and tried to learn. I learnt from a number of different chefs, in Negril, St. James, all over.” It took Campbell almost 4 years to effectively learn some of the basics of cooking skills he would come to eventually master, but it was worth it.
Now, Campbell looks to push his invention – the KBS – a multi-compartment cooking system that does not require the use of gas or electricity.

“This is just the beginning of the inventions for me,” Campbell offered, “and although it has not been easy, I will not stop. I think this is what I want to be doing,” the chef said, his face alight with a smile of optimism.

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