Tomme Beevas, ’11 CEMBA, always wondered why Jamaican food was largely absent from the U.S. restaurant landscape, where Italian, Mexican, and Chinese restaurants seemed to sprout up all around him. So the Kingston-born corporate pro and amateur chef started a business plan to bring the flavors of his hometown to American diners. When he started the Carlson Executive MBA Program years later, he acted on his idea and launched Pimento Jamaican Kitchen.
“When I started the program, I didn’t know whether I was getting an MBA to stay in corporate responsibility or to go out on my own, but I knew I needed an MBA to take my career to the next level. While at Carlson, I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. So naturally Pimento became it,” he says.
Beevas started towing his grill to community events and serving free samples of food prepared from his grandmother Babylou’s time-tested recipes. His Carlson School classmates often volunteered to help him serve food—and Pimento quickly built a grassroots following.
One year later, the Food Network discovered Pimento and cast Beevas to appear on the reality TV show Food Court Wars. He won the competition, resigned from his position as director of global community involvement at Cargill, and opened his first restaurant in Burnsville, Minnesota.
While it wasn’t easy to retire from a corporate career that he loved, Beevas doesn’t regret the move.
Diners can now find Pimento at events throughout Minnesota, at the flagship location in Burnsville, and at the newest restaurant in Minneapolis. As the business grows, Beevas is employing principles he learned from his professors to ensure he scales up without sacrificing quality or service.
“Our goal is to take Pimento national, if not global. Thanks to Carlson, I’ve sharpened my business acumen and now I’m able to apply that to being smart in how fast we grow. We want to grow in a sustainable, measured way,” he says.
At his Carlson Executive MBA Class of 2011 reunion this year, Beevas showed the classmates who helped him serve free food years prior that he’d achieved his goal.
“One of my proudest moments was being able to hang out with my cohort and for them to come see how my dream happened five years later,” he says.