Q&A: Edward Pottinger, owner of The Real Jerk, where Drake and Rihanna shot their new music video

Q&A: Edward Pottinger, owner of The Real Jerk, where Drake and Rihanna shot their new music video

Our Six in the Six interview with the owner of the east end's best known Caribbean restaurant, now a hip-hop landmark

(Image: The Real Jerk/Facebook)

The Real Jerk is a 30-years-strong institution in Toronto, known for its Caribbean food and flashy exterior. As of Monday, though, it’s better known as the setting for Rihanna and Drake’s latest joint effort: a music video for the Rihanna single “Work.” The restaurant is owned by Edward Pottinger, who agreed to shut down for a day to accommodate music’s biggest maybe-couple. Here, he tells us about how the project came about, and why when Drake wants a roti, you make one.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out your restaurant was about to become a pop-culture landmark?
I was in Jamaica. The shoot was on a Friday. I got a call on the Monday saying that they wanted to use the place. At first, I was very skeptical. Friday is a big business day for us, and they didn’t tell us who the artists were. I said, I don’t think so. Then, when I didn’t bite, they had to kind of say, yeah, it’s the two biggest artists in the world right now. Our first assumption was that Drake might have something to do with it, because he does come in from time to time to pick up food. But Drake didn’t even know where the video was shooting.

So if Drizzy didn’t choose the location, who did?
Director X [who also directed Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video] and his crew are regular customers, so when they were brainstorming the best place to stage the video they thought of us. The idea in the video is that it’s a dance hall.

What kind of conditions did you have to agree to? Was it rotis on demand?
We had to sign a confidentiality agreement. My staff didn’t know. Not even my kids knew. What was funny is that we weren’t the caterers for the shoot. They have their own catering company that provides food to the crew—to their chagrin. We did do food for some people. Drake wanted a chicken roti really bad, so we did that for him. We also did the prop food for the shoot. In the video you see a waitress carrying jerk chicken around. My wife Lili has a cameo. She was actually pretty reluctant. I had to convince her.

There’s some joint smoking in the video. Do you worry that people are going to think they can spark up in your restaurant now?
Of course not! You still have to obey the law. Most of what’s in the video is props. Not everybody is smoking what they seem to be smoking. I’m not sure who’s smoking what, precisely. They had free license to do whatever they wanted to do. I wasn’t particularly offended or upset about it.

I read somewhere that sales have spiked by 20 per cent since the video came out.
Maybe my wife said that. The reality is, it’s way too soon to tell. The video only came out on Monday. What has increased is the interest. We’ve had calls from media in France, Trinidad, New York. Our regular customers are all excited about it.

Everyone wants to know if Drake and Rhianna are a couple. Any info to dish?
No comment. They were very professional. They worked very hard. I was impressed with them and with the whole crew. They danced sexy and hot for 16 hours. They were friendly, but to say they were out and out… I can’t comment on that. It would be out of order.