BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Queens Village resident and Whitestone Tropical Revival owner Albert Teekasingh has been bringing a “taste of the Caribbean” to the borough for four months with his Whitestone-based eatery Tropical Revival.
Born and raised in Guyana, Teekasingh began cooking at the mere age of 14, working at his grandmother’s restaurant during his summer breaks from school.
At age 19, Teekasingh, his mother and siblings moved to Rego Park with his father, who had been living in Queens for 15 years, getting established for his family’s arrival once they gained their sponsorship.
“The process was long,” Teekasingh said. “It was rough on the family because we were never separated for a night prior to him moving.”
Two weeks after he moved to Queens, Teekasingh began working at CVS as a supervisor, where he stayed for 15 years and met his wife.
Although he remained with the company, Teekasingh and his wife moved to study at SUNY Binghamton. Aside from his two full-time jobs and pursuit of education, he and his wife started a baking business known as S&A Cakes Unlimited, which was featured on the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes.”
After a brief time living in Florida, Teekasingh returned to Queens and realized he no longer wanted to work for anyone and decided to start his own business, which he did in 2010. It is known as Superior Cleaning Professionals and is located in Queens Village.
During his time working at Home Depot in College Point, Teekasingh would walk around the neighborhood and hand out his business cards. The first day he did this, Teekasingh walked through Whitestone, where he unintentionally handed his card to the owner of the building where Tropical Revival is now located. At the time, there was a restaurant at the location known as Revive that eventually went out of business. However, at that time, Teekasingh couldn’t afford the property.
Two years ago, he again spoke with the property owner, who told him that the location was still available and he was willing to work with Teekasingh to open his restaurant. Given that Teekasingh was familiar with the area and knew there were no restaurants offering Caribbean cuisine, he knew that this was the perfect place to open Tropical Revival.
Four weeks after Tropical Revival’s grand opening in October 2016, the restaurant was burglarized, which set Teekasingh back as he had to get the restaurant up and running again. However, he was able to look at the situation in a positive light.
“It made us realize we made the right choice in opening the restaurant here because after the break-in, we had so many customers coming in, after seeing the news coverage of what happened, to see if we were okay and to show love and support,” he said. “Whitestone has welcomed us with open arms and the fact that they’re accepting the different cuisine we bring, we’re grateful. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Not only has Tropical Revival been a hit for the Whitestone community, but it has also drawn people from all over.
This week, two women, one from Brooklyn and the other from the Bronx, were trying to find a mutually convenient place to eat. Based on Yelp reviews, the women decided on Tropical Revival. Another woman from Forest Hills who works in Westbury paid a visit to the restaurant. Teekasingh, who hangs out in the lobby after all the cooking is done to mingle with his customers, engaged in casual conversation with the woman, who told him she stopped by the restaurant because of all the great reviews on social media.
In the three months that Tropical Revival has been in business, Teekasingh said that one of his finest memories is of a woman stationed in Virginia and serving in the military, who called the restaurant and ordered a week’s worth of food to be catered to the home of her aunt, who was ill, on Long Island.
Teekasingh was touched by the woman’s story, so he went to the restaurant on a Sunday when it was closed, spent the whole day cooking for the sick aunt and then drove over an hour to personally deliver the trays of food to the woman’s family.
“I love the fact that we are able to bring people together,” he said. “Even though she was in Virginia, it was through the food that she was there. I love that I’m able to help people in that sense.”
He said that although Tropical Revival provides a variety of cuisines, the best sellers are, undoubtedly, oxtails, curry duck and cornbread.
“On the first day, I cooked 30 pounds of oxtails and it didn’t last an hour,” he said. “When we’re serving duck, forget it. I don’t even get to bring them up front. People begin calling in around 8 a.m. to ask what’s on our lunch special and as soon as I say curry duck, they ask me to hold them some in the back.”
Not only does the restaurant have a variety of items on its lunch menu, but it also switches up the dinner menu.
On Monday through Friday, Teekasingh’s work day starts at 7 a.m. as he begins to cook for Redeemer Nursery School in Jamaica and Our Saviour Lutheran School in Rego Park, to which he caters on the weekdays. Not only do he and his staff have to begin cooking early for the nursery schools, but they also begin preparation for Tropical Revival, which opens at 11:30 a.m. after the delivery of the school lunches.
After his six-day work week, Teekasingh dedicates Sunday to family.
“As a child, we were blessed that food brought us together,” he said. “It was just one of our traditions. We worked all week long, with Sundays being the only time that everyone was off. We would have this big lunch where everyone would cook something and come together to sit down, eat and laugh. It was always a great time and it’s what I grew up with. Even now as a grown man with my own family, I try to incorporate the exact thing with my own kids.”
This summer, Teekasingh plans to operate food trucks that are an extension of his restaurant and by the end of 2017, he hopes to open Tropical Revival eateries in other regions, such as Long Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Teekasingh’s eldest daughter, who is 11 years old, has already shown interest in taking over the family business when she grows up.
“I told her ‘no,’ she has to finish school first,” Teekasingh said.
Although Teekasingh opened the restaurant and likes to be in control when it comes to cooking, every now and then he doesn’t hesitate to ask his mom if he needs.
“I am extremely grateful to my family and my friends and the amazing outpour of love and support from them,” he said. “But mainly, I’m thankful for the Whitestone community. Words can’t express the joy and happiness that we’ve felt from the support we’ve received from Whitestone and I’m very grateful for that. I look forward to continue serving the Queens community.”
Tropical Revival is located on 12-40 Clintonville Street in Whitestone and is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For the daily menu, call 347-502-1802.