New York City Council last Thursday honored Vincentian community leader James Cordice during a gala celebration at City Hall in commemoration of Garifuna-American Heritage Month.
The council said it was “proud to honor” the Philadelphia-based Cordice, the architect behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the illustrious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania, for his “outstanding service and enduring contribution to our community.”
Cordice was among three honorees at the event. The others were Janel Martinez and Andy Romel Ordonez.
He told Caribbean Life afterwards that he endeavors to do his best at all times.
Cordice said this ideal propels his involvement, zeal and relentlessness in serving the community.
He thanked many, including his parents, siblings, teachers, “good friends” and his village (Clare Valley in St. Vincent and the Grenadines) for “the nurturing, for the tough love, the guidance and the spirit of my Garifuna predecessors,” who molded him in “being dependable.”
“I am pleased and proud to have been chosen (honored),” Cordice said. “I looked around the room and saw many Garifuna brothers and sisters who I am familiar with.
“I am humble and pleased to receive this award,” he added. “Then I think of all of my Garifuna families who never made it off Baliceaux [a small, rocky island in the St. Vincent Grenadines] alive.
“Those who never made it to Roatan [a small island off Honduras], I weep for them,” Cordice continued. “But I am saddened because our children have to grasp at the way forward.”
As a member of Garifuna United in Spiritual Healing, Cordice said he continues to “wait for all my opportunities to serve.”
Cordice, the former president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP), has been coordinating St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the illustrious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) for the past seven years, was the youngest storeroom manager to be employed at the Cotton House Hotel in Mustique.
Cordice migrated to the Virgin Islands, where he resumed his hospitality employment at Trade Winds Resort. He eventually became the culinary supervisor and, by 1988, when he migrated to New York, he was certified in French, Italian and English Carvery showmanship cooking.
To finance his culinary education in the United States, he worked as an auto mechanic, and interned at the Waldorf Astoria in midtown Manhattan. He introduced French cooking to a Russian Banquet Hall, then managed a restaurant with a staff of 18.
In 1991, Cordice relocated to Philadelphia and was employed as a chef at Mel’s Italian and Chef-Café Raphael. He was head chef, Main Street Café, kitchen supervisor at Howard Johnson, and sous chef at Sheraton NE.
In 1992, he started a vending business, later contracted for Wade Cable, worked as a business tech at Bell Atlantic, among other places; and managed his small construction company, specializing in the design and construction of fine kitchens and bathrooms.