Hot Pot Caribbean Cuisine owner brings fresh, familiar favorites to Chandler

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When Karen Francis took a trip to Arizona on vacation from New York, she had no intention of starting a restaurant. But with one taste of the Jamaican food offerings in the Valley, Francis said she knew she was going to bring authentic Jamaican food to the Valley.

“I took one bite at that restaurant, and I was like, ‘Mmm, no, this is not authentic,’” Francis said. “They were not representing Jamaican food correctly. I thought I could do better.”

In July 2008, she opened Hot Pot Caribbean Cuisine in Chandler. Since then the business has seen customers remain loyal enough to allow the business to expand to include a food truck—something Francis says is always in high demand.

“We have amazing customers,” she said. “Some of them have been with us since we opened, and they are still there. I’ve seen kids grow up that I met in their mama’s bellies and teenagers turn into adults.”

Francis said the customers kept her afloat during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—especially as Gov. Doug Ducey limited indoor dining and restricted businesses to take-out only for a portion of the summer. Coming up on a year since COVID-19 began impacting business, Francis said she is grateful to the people who kept ordering her food.

“I was bracing for the worst,” she said. “I don’t know how we got so lucky. God must’ve sprinkled some dust down on us. They were so supportive, and I’m so grateful to them all for coming in. I had people traveling from Cave Creek coming in and buying a bunch of food to make sure we stay in business.”

The food, Francis said, is what keeps people coming back. With traditional Jamaican dishes, Francis—who still spends some of her time in the kitchen—said the restaurant tries to keep it as pure and authentic as possible.

“It’s the stuff you grow up on when you’re Jamaican,” Francis said. “We serve traditional jerk chicken; we do a whole red snapper; we do so much. It’s a very simple, but very tasty, menu.”