New initiative gives Black and Indigenous chefs a foothold at Montreal's Jean-Talon Market

·2 min read
Jamal Gittens, centre, is a co-owner of Tropikal restaurant in St. Henri. Gittens and the team took over the Maison Onyx Jean-Talon Market stall on Saturday, bringing their Caribbean and Afro-Latin food to a new audience.  (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Jamal Gittens, centre, is a co-owner of Tropikal restaurant in St. Henri. Gittens and the team took over the Maison Onyx Jean-Talon Market stall on Saturday, bringing their Caribbean and Afro-Latin food to a new audience. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

At the bustling Jean-Talon Market, there's a new stage for some of Montreal's Black and Indigenous chefs to share their menus.

La Maison Onyx is a shared stall that will host different chefs throughout the summer, introducing patrons to new cuisines and cultural food traditions.

The stall, which launched July 7, is run by DESTA Black Youth Network as part of its larger food program to deliver meals and produce to people in need and training and support for Black chefs who are just starting out.

Berlin Reed, the Community Food Program co-ordinator at DESTA, told CBC that the aim of the market stall is to give Black and Indigenous chefs a platform to showcase their cultures.

"Part of what I want to do is introduce people to a wider understanding of what Black food is. I think people have a very specific concept: it's either jerk chicken or Haitian food or soul food. But actually, Black chefs are doing everything across the board. So I want to, within the summer, show that."

Reed added that he felt it was important to open up the initiative to Indigenous chefs who are trying to build their skills and reach more people.

"Indigenous solidarity, Black solidarity is just one and the same," he said.

The program is set to run Wednesday to Sundays until October. A portion of the profits made at the Maison Onyx kiosk will go toward funding community services at DESTA.

CBC
CBC

Jamal Gittens is one of three owners of Tropikàl restaurant in Saint-Henri. He and his team, including chef Jae-Anthony Dougan, took over the stall this past weekend.

After opening Tropikàl in March of this year, Gittens said serving up Caribbean and Afro-Latin food at the market is a chance to build their reputation across the city.

"We wanted to give the opportunity to other cultures and other people who may not experience it at our restaurant, give them an opportunity to see what we are about and the flavours and what we do as a restaurant."

Gittens said he was surprised by the positive response to his food, and he's glad to partner with DESTA to promote Black food and set an example for others.

"I want to give back to our community. I want to show young Black kids that the opportunities are endless, they can work, they can open up a restaurant, they can be a doctor, they can do whatever. The possibilities are really endless."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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CBC
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