Photo courtesy of Theo Myrie.
For Theo Myrie, fulfilling his dreams of becoming a chef, his food truck business, Irie Myrie’s Caribbean Catering Company, was just what he had imagined, and it proved to be so much more for him once he launched it. Customers were ecstatic to try a new Caribbean food establishment with an emphasis on keeping it real, healthy, and fresh, and serving it with love.
Débu spoke to Theo Myrie to learn more about his business.
Tell us the story of founding Irie Myrie’s Caribbean Catering Company and the challenges in the process.
While growing up in Jamaica, I always aspired to be a chef. Before moving to Canada, I had planned to transition to tourism, but after moving to Kitchener-Waterloo, I realized that there’s not a lot of tourism. There were numerous restaurants around here; however, there was a lack of diversity. A quick cook on a dish isn’t good enough. It’s all about flavour, preparation, and the cooking process. I wanted to fill that gap.
I started cooking in my mother’s basement kitchen and selling food on Facebook. Irie expanded to my food truck and to the restaurant. What really inspired me was to provide healthy food options for Canadians.
One of the most challenging things about starting the business is a lack of leaders. If more people of influence invest in our business or give back, we could grow and thrive.
What would you say is the unique selling point of your business?
What really sells my food is the fact that it’s always fresh, which is something people love. Also, the facility’s clean. When we go out, we know when we’re being served fresh food. Most of my customers right now are 75 to 80 per cent repeat and 20 to 25 per cent new.
What do you think is the relationship between food and well-being? How does Irie Myrie include health-consciousness in cuisine?
Food is everything. I always explain to people in a way that we can all understand. If we put healthy food into our body, our body will perform the best. But if we put food that just goes into our body and its impact lasts no longer than half an hour, then we are doing a lot of harm to ourselves.
[Fast food establishments] can make healthier meals because it’s affordable and doable, just like the way I’ve been doing it for the last seven years. That’s what I strive to continue doing.
If we have a healthier society, just imagine three to four generations from now. Instead of spending so much on healthcare to cure food-related illnesses, we can save a lot more money by being preventive in our consumption habits.
What is your favourite part of Caribbean cuisine and how does your passion for the cuisine translate into the dishes you create?
For me, it’s the freshness, the flavors, the spice. It’s the authenticity and, most importantly, that people who cook the food do it with love. You can taste that. The thing about cooking is — and that’s why sometimes we prefer a certain person to cook our food — that person’s energy is being placed into that food whenever it’s being cooked. It’s not just eating ingredients. Our energy — people’s energy — goes into the food.
Ortheta Anan | Contributing Writer