It was a hot Sunday in 1989 and Nathalie Imasekha was busy frying bakes and shark fillets (more fondly known as bake and shark) in a modest bamboo shack on the North Coast Road that runs along the popular Maracas Bay. Bake and shark: it is now a staple of Trini beach life, originating from the Maracas Bay Village where dwellers still depend on farming, fishing and the food business as a livelihood.
In 1989 the Maracas Bay Old Bay Road Village was sparsely populated, and the inhabitants enjoyed the simple life. No cell phones. Not many televisions and not even much transport to the capital city of Port of Spain. In this era Imasekha was carving her niche as an entrepreneur. She was already a bake-and-shark connoisseur thanks to her family’s strong history in the business: her mother and father were the founders of the now-famous Richard’s Bake and Shark.
Determined to be a success in her own right, Imasekha had to branch out alone and get a real taste of the business world, drawing on what she’d learnt from her parents. Fast forward now to the present day: Maracas Beach 27 years later; a spacious booth with countless sauces made from every spice imaginable; tables laden with other condiments and complementary toppings to decorate the dish that has become an undeniable national food of Trinidad and Tobago; a large sign on top that reads: ‘Nathalie’s Bake and Shark’.
People are flooding the booth; the lines are long as people chatter about Nathalie’s signature bake and shark. I am in the line as well, and my husband is going on and on about the brand this humble businesswoman began. He has always sworn by ‘Nathalie’s’, and I remember him bringing home one of her shark delights on an evening when I was cranky while pregnant.