It’s funny. I come from the Caribbean. I come from Grenada. I also lived in Trinidad. My mother’s site is from Trinidad. My father’s site is from Grenada. I grew up with my grandparents. Cooking was a must for all of us to know how to cook. But when I came to the United States, I first wanted to be a dentist. My plan was to come here to go to school and then I started to have a regular job and I started to take care of the family. I needed the money and various other things, so my plans quickly changed.
I then ventured into ironwork and became a welder. I was a foreman for a while … and then I decided to follow my passion, which was food and cooking. I worked in a bakery, Master Confectioner, and I worked at the Granite Links Country Club.
I decided ok you know what I will follow this passion. And I started going to cookery school. I went to Le Cordon Bleu. I went to Spain, studied there and cooked there in Spain.
I returned to the US and just started looking around different parts of town to see what financially I can afford. And Hyde Park was the best choice because I liked the variety. I liked the mix of people and we had pretty good pedestrian traffic at the time.
Obsession is synonymous with size to me, so I became obsessed with food and learning different types of cuisines.
Why did you come to Massachusetts?
Two of my aunts were doctors, and I wanted to get into the medical field too. In the Caribbean, they drilled us that we need to improve our lives. So I tried to follow the family tree.
How has COVID-19 affected you?
It’s definitely a roller coaster. When it started, I reversed my plan for the year and decided to do some food prep. I really started doing delivery services and I started doing food prep for different parts of the city. And we drove up to 20 miles to try to get the food out. At the time, at the onset of COVID, apparently no one really left their homes. The idea of preparing meals was correct because we could serve food for about a week to people who didn’t want to go out or go to different places to pick up food.
In the midst of COVID, the meal prep business subsided so people tried harder to get out. And so the numbers went down pretty much from the start, so I continued with the delivery.
The biggest thing for me was that I started building my shop front in December 2019. The idea was to expand the store and add more space. … Just as we were about to go through the permit and everything got going and we were starting construction, COVID struck. So the place was a construction site. It was really quite difficult to maneuver and my construction team wasn’t working. Nobody was working at the time. The financial investment I made was very risky as I was unaware of the COVID situation. It was quite difficult to get through this phase.
We finished construction. We added another 1,000 square feet and then added the terrace. The terrace helped in the fall and summer. … We didn’t have the resources to do this earlier in the process because we had just invested a lot of money in the expansion.
The timing wasn’t great. Everyone would agree. Many people have this difficulty. It was definitely not easy, but we’re still here. We are still standing. We can still open again. We have a pick-up service window. We could do the terrace.
I am a member of Hyde Park Main Streets. And so they definitely help me with business.
How do you feel in the winter?
[Our pickup] Window will be ideal. We have strengthened the delivery service. We have expanded the radius again. This week we actually started preparing meals again. [We’ll] Go all the way to Avon, Brockton, Medford, West Roxbury, and every kind of neighboring town and see how we can try to get the food out. And, of course, the indoor food, which we will definitely look forward to for those willing to come over to eat, which is a minimum lately. People haven’t eaten out much at all given the situation.
What do you think of Boston’s treatment of people with color?
Right right. From my point of view, it is obvious to me that we are dealing with a climate right now, a racist climate, and this is reinforced by many things that are going on. And so I am not naive. I know it exists. And so I myself, as a business owner, as a small business owner, as a small business owner of a minority, could definitely see a lot of bureaucracy, whatever is involved, such as alcohol licenses or the like – where we I just have to try for different things, different scholarships, to apply different things like this. You can definitely see the difference.
It’s unfortunate because, for me, I grew up in a country or a time where we all accepted. The climate and America in general, not just Massachusetts, have long been concerned with this issue. And I can’t afford to find an excuse for failing. I can’t afford to find an excuse when I get 100 no’s and various roadblocks. I cannot excuse myself to stop what I am doing because at the end of the day I can get hold of this kind of mentality that I have and not let it stop me from achieving what I need to achieve. But I also understand that it would be nice to get extra funding or help from various sources here and there. And so unfortunately we so often adapt to hearing the no.
For me, I can just assert myself, and I’m used to feeling uncomfortable, so I don’t care because I come from very humble beginnings. Being uncomfortable is what I’m used to.
Why did you open in Hyde Park?
Diversity. My food is very diverse, very different. The fusion is Caribbean, Asian, Latin. I worked in different places before opening my business so I wanted to be able to reach different crowds everywhere. … I wanted to be more on the outskirts, where I can go to different neighboring towns like Milton or West Roxbury, Roslindale, different areas nearby and let them see what we have to offer.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu?
As a chef, I am my biggest critic. That’s why I always push myself to get better. As I said earlier, obsession for me is synonymous with height, man. I have a Thai fried basil rice which is one of my favorites. I just added a chow mine which is pretty awesome. We have a salmon burger. …. I push a lot of seafood there so we do a lot of seafood with salmon and shrimp and so on. The mac and cheese is great and the thai stuff is great.
What have you been doing to pass the time since the pandemic?
My father is currently having health problems. He had amputated his leg in the middle of COVID. My parents live with me. Since I’ve been able to postpone some of the things we do about wheelchair services and other things like this, I’ve been pretty busy figuring out a few things on my end at home. It really took some time.
I have three children, three wonderful children. I’m single now so I don’t have a partner to carry the weight with me in terms of responsibility so I’m just trying to juggle things.
What do you like to eat most under stress?
Good question. Impressive. It used to be ice, but now I’ve really been watching my diet and actually exercising. I think I should probably add that I really worked out after the COVID started, so I probably lost 30 pounds. For me as a chef, losing this weight is amazing because I have more energy and can be easier on my knees.
Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.