Da Reggae Cafe

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | January 23rd, 2020
John and Antonate Horn (Photos by JLG Photography)

John and Antonate Horn (Photos by JLG Photography)

John and Antonate Horn are partners in life, business and more. As they soon will celebrate 13 years of marriage, the couple has also built Da Reggae Cafe into one of the Triad’s best food and dining experiences. They became business partners in 2009, and both bring something different to the table. John is the chef and has his own kind of flavor, while Antonate is firm and sturdy, and helps to ensure that business happens as usual, every day.

Antonate and John met in Jamaica. John shares that when he first laid eyes on her, he knew she was the one for him. Antonate is a natural businesswoman. She has a background in hair styling and cosmetology. Together they share a blended family, all with love as the center.

It was nearly 13 years ago when John Horn decided to share his idea of authentic and delicious Jamaican food with the Triad. In 1996, the Jamaican native was a resident of a small town in Pennsylvania when he came up with the idea, along with a friend, to open a restaurant. It was called “Best of Times”. The town was small and business was pretty slow, and as a result the business didn’t last too long. However, the experience taught the savvy businessman a few lessons; one being having a good location to open a restaurant.

It wasn’t too long after that when John decided to make the trek to North Carolina. He had a family member who had ties to the area and when the opportunity came for him to visit, he did. “I was taken back a little of how friendly the people were here,” John says after his first visit. He came back a second time and the result were the same.

The idea to move from Pennsylvania was weighing on John and he contemplated on moving to several areas, including Texas and Florida. He decided to settle somewhere in the middle and North Carolina was the answer. In 2005, he became a resident of the city of High Point.

Opening and owning a successful restaurant didn’t happen by mistake. John was purposed for this.

John comes from a large family in Portland Jamaica. Raised by a single mother, he has 11 siblings, seven boys and five girls. Most of his siblings are a lot older than John, with him being the second to the youngest. “My mom was a smart woman. She was the farmer, carpenter, and businesswoman. She could do everything. This is how she managed to take care of us,” he says. “She was a Christian woman and was very dedicated to everything she did.” His mother was very instrumental in his life and is the source of where he got many of his disciplines from.

Like many other residents of Portland, John and his family were poor. He shares that he was forced to learn how to fend for himself. “Unemployment was very high. I often asked myself what was I going to do? I am poor,” he says. In Spite of the obstacles he faced, John preserved.

John says that as a child, he was taught various chores such as washing his own clothes, cleaning, and cooking. “There weren’t a lot of restaurants in my city and so if you wanted to eat, you got to cook,” John says. While most other kids would be playing or doing other kid stuff, John and his friends would be cooking. “We would cook by the riverside and in the bushes. We cook our own food that we brought from the market. We set up the stones and would light the wood, and put the pots on, and make our dumplings and rice, and curry chicken. We would race to the water, and take a swim before we ate. It was fun,” he says in his rich and genuine Jamaican accent.

While living in Jamaica, John would attend a resort school, Runaway Bay HEART Academy (Human Employment And Resort Training). There he received his formal culinary training, including everything that has to deal with food and beverages. “We were taught to study the behaviors of tourist who came to Jamaica. I had to be up on the current affairs of any tourist. I realized that when you talk to somebody and you immerse yourself and have knowledge of where they are from, you have a whole different feeling. If I meet someone from China, I go back and research something about China so that I can talk to him,” he says.

The young John Horn was often recognized for being articulate. His first passion was to be a lawyer, mainly due to the encouragement of his friends. While in school he would defend some of his friends and argue on their behalf with the principal. “I would often get them off,” he says. He would even develop an interest in the Jamaican judicial system.

“Every Wednesday, you know where you could find me, on the courthouse window listening to all the cases. The courthouse has long windows and I would stand there and listen,” he says. He would eventually get involved in politics. At the age of 17 he was nominated to serve the Assistant Secretary for his small community political affiliation.

John’s move to North Carolina would change his life in a lot of ways. When he arrived in the Tarheel state, opening a restaurant was not in John’s immediate plans. He initially attempted to land a job through a staffing agency, but it didn’t go so well. “They assumed that because I was Jamaican I was not a United States citizen. However I was a citizen. This ordeal made me so mad that I decided to open my own restaurant, and Da Reggae Cafe was born,” he says.

Initially the plan was to open an upscale restaurant, however due to the previous location, he was unable to and decided to sell street food. As a result of the success of their business, in 2018 John and Antonate were able to purchase a building, which now houses their new location on West Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro. Da Reggae Cafe currently employees ten full-time employees.

All the recipes of Da Reggae Cafe have been created by John. He says the most popular dishes are Jerk Chicken and Ox Tails, however the entire menu is quite tasty and delicious. On any given day the restaurant is patronized by customers, both new and existing ones.

John shares that his mother taught him that one important characteristic is gratitude. He also shares that he is very happy with how his life has played out. “God has given me everything that I have asked for and dreamed of. Every prayer that I ask for, God gives it to me. I wouldn’t change anything about my life because my life has been good to me,” he says.

Today, John says that getting older is something that he thinks more about. With aging, he is also planning for his future and the future of Da Reggae Cafe. He hopes to bring in live bands to play. He believes this will help to make the customers experience more of what Jamaica is like. “My plan is to take Da Reggae Cafe brand to other areas, including Charlotte and more.”

In the future, John hopes to live his life in such a way that it makes a make a difference in the lives of other men. “I believe we really need strong and focused men in today’s society. If I can help encourage men to do the things that God has asked them to do, I will. With all of the things that God has blessed me and my family with, I want to do my part and share the same love with others” he says.

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