For some students who find themselves homesick, a taste of home cuisine can mean a lot. Three university students wanted to help fellow international students by bringing Jamaican food to Fredericton.
University of New Brunswick students Marcia Roach and Fallon Bowen and St. Thomas University student Imani England are international students from Jamaica. They all gained culinary experience from their high school classes and upbringings and decided to start selling Jamaican food together under the business name, Buss Gas.
This past weekend they decided to have a two-day trial run to see if anyone would be interested in their food before they open in September.
They were shocked by the results.
“When we started we didn’t know we would have so many people supporting us,” said England.
They received 51 orders. Customers ordered by messaging their Instagram page, @bus_gas, or called. They’ve been delivering but customers also pick up food at England’s apartment. They are currently in the process of creating a Facebook page.
The name Buss Gas came from a Jamaican expression that’s used when someone is hungry. Jamaicans will say you have gas and people typically reply with, “You need to bus some gas,” meaning you need to satisfy your hunger.
Buss Gas will be closed for the summer because they have lots to do before officially opening, but customers are still placing orders.
England said they are looking into whether they want to sell food at the market, from a food truck, or rent a permanent location.
For now, the women have been cooking out of England’s apartment.
They said business professors and Service New Brunswick have been helping them obtain a license to serve food.
They have been delivering to campus and nearby locations and allowing customers to pick up from England’s apartment.
Roach is the primary chef, but all will help cook depending on what is needed. Fallon is in charge of the finances and England is in charge of marketing.
The women have decided to only cook on certain days, which vary per week, because they don’t want to become overwhelmed with work on top of being students. They are thinking of cooking on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Once their class schedules come out that will change. They plan to cook on days that are not filled with classes.
Orders are taken at least a day in advance, giving them lots of time to prepare.
“We know not to juggle too much,” said Roach.
The vendor offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Their menu has various cuisine on specific days. Last week, they cooked jerk chicken, bake chicken, curry shrimp and sweet and sour chicken with rice and peas.
“For breakfast we make Jamaican dishes such as ackee and saltfish, brown stew chicken, bake beans and sausages served with boiled dumplings, fried dumplings and festivals,” said England.
So far, the favourite has been jerk chicken. It’s a seasoned chicken on the grill, marinated in a hot spice mixture known as jerk spice. They also have a mild version.
Their hope for the business is to have their own location, to be registered and recognized as an official restaurant in Fredericton and to get to the point where they will need to hire staff. They also want to make a profit.
The women said they have been receiving negative comments from Jamaican adults saying they are too young to run a business and manage it effectively because they’re students.
But they have also received feedback from satisfied customers who have said things like, “I’ve never tasted jerk chicken like that before.” Their business name has also gained a lot of respect from the Jamaican community.
Their family and friends have been very supportive and helpful and the team is excited to see what the future has in store for Buss Gas.
“Come September we’d really appreciate if everyone would support us. We’re open to feedback because that is what will help us build,” said England.