A cafe owned by a family who left Zimbabwe when political turmoil hit the country has won the Advertiser and Review’s Cafe of the Year competition.
Bee’s Kitchen, on Market Hill, Buckingham was the runaway winner.
The cafe is run by Debbie Thomson, 56, who is assisted by her mum, Joyce, 83. Debbie bought the cafe, which is above the post office, six years ago.
The grandmother of three lived in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital and moved to the UK 10 years ago with Joyce, her father, Dennis, and her daughter, Shanelle, 30, leaving behind a successful catering business.
“We came here with nothing,” Debbie told the Advertiser and Review. “I have done all kinds of work and I used to be a member of staff at the cafe, when I got the chance to buy it.
“We opened on the day they announced the recession. We have had really hard struggles, but we have a saying in Zimbabwe, ‘We make a plan and keep on trucking.’”
She added when the family first moved to the UK, they had only £20 in their pockets. Debbie and her daughter lived in Maidstone, in Kent, while her parents lived in Steeple Claydon. Debbie then moved to the Buckingham area to be closer to her parents.
Sadly, Dennis, a former wildlife artist originally from South Africa, died in March this year. Debbie’s brother, Gary, 54, lives in Arizona.
“Unfortunately because of the situation in our home country, the family is spread out all over the world,” Debbie said. “We are well supported in the town and surrounding area. People come to Buckingham especially for our meals. We put only good quality food on the table and no one leaves hungry.
“All our food is locally sourced and I will never compromise on anything.”
Bee’s Kitchen is a favourite among builders and construction workers, who always phone ahead with their order, and also students from the University of Buckingham.
Debbie said: “We get lots of students come in who are from all over the world and we always accommodate them. If they like certain foods, we will get it in for them.”
Advertiser and Review editor, Roger Hawes, said: “Congratulations to Bee’s Kitchen for winning our Cafe of the Year award. Bee’s Kitchen is a worthy winner against tough competition.”