As the city prepares for its annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival, a separate organization has gotten a head start highlighting Black-owned restaurants to help them thrive.
Black Restaurant Week (BRW) just wrapped up in Toronto, where it promoted and celebrated flavours of African-American, African, and Caribbean cuisine. Several Black-owned restaurants and chefs participated in the campaign that aims to revitalize those culinary businesses that struggled during the pandemic.
"Toronto's our first international market," said BRW managing partner Falayn Ferrell. "It's got such a great Caribbean culture, it was fun to showcase the diversity that's going on there."
Black Restaurant Week was started by Ferrell, Warren Luckett, and Derek Robinson in Houston, Texas back in 2016. Since then it's supported more than 2,000 Black-owned restaurants across North America.
It aims to shine a light on Black-owned culinary businesses, aiding them in expanding their reach across the community to ultimately increase their bottom line.
Some of the restaurants that participated in Toronto include Boukan, D'Amo, Flame & Smoke, Hoyos Restaurant, Hummingbird Vegan Jamaican Patties, King Rustic Kitchen, Lagos Chop, Lucky's Chicken N' Waffles, Selam Restaurant & Lounge and The Diner's Corner.
Last year, BRW helped generate an average of 15 per cent increase in sales for participating restaurants.
'Great Black chefs in the city'
Jerome Robinson is the owner and operator of Toronto restaurant The Heartbreak Chef. His restaurant began as a catering company that has since expanded to a brick-and-mortar location on Dundas Street West.
He says campaigns like Black Restaurant Week not only highlight "great Black chefs in the city" but also Toronto's eclectic food scene.
"It's amazing. People in Toronto are starting to know about these chefs and businesses," he said. "It's good now they have a bit of a platform to show that."
Robinson believes the structure of the food industry has changed, allowing more Black chefs to move in and carve their own spaces with the help of social media. At his restaurant, he prepares comfort food inspired by his upbringing.
"We just try to do something different, put a flare on it, and have fun with it," he said. "I like the creativity."
BRW's additional campaign initiatives and events included free entry-level business registration showcasing business opportunities for catering companies and private chefs, an online marketplace and small business grants and business development training from its non-profit Feed The Soul Foundation.
A full list of restaurants can be found on blackrestaurantweeks.com.