Food Market at the Ex, a way to express culture

Still for the New Brunswick Provincial Exhibition Centre Food Market, that happens every weekends from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

The Food Market at the Fredericton Exhibition Centre offers more than true international flavours. Open every weekend, it offers culture, community and stories. 

Salam Mahboob, a 65-year-old father from Iraq, works at his business Dolma Delight, which he created eight years ago in a different food market.

“I started this business because I want to improve my English,” he said.

His restaurant serves a variety of traditional Iraqi food. He said a lot of his clients are not familiar with the dishes, but he takes time to explain what everything contains to each client.

“What encouraged me for my business is that the Canadian community likes to test something different.”

While the market is only open during the weekend, Mahboob spends his weekdays preparing the food. From butter chicken to kebabs and zenod al-sit, he needs to cook a wide variety of dishes for his business. 

He said he finds motivation in his family.

“I have four kids, three of them in the university and I have a daughter, 10-year-old,” said Mahboob. “I have to work to prepare everything for them.”

Mahboob imports ingredients from the Middle East to Canada to make his food as authentic as it can be.

One of the biggest struggles he has is finding customers. Mahboob recognizes that he has big competitors.

“I try to be as successful with it as I can. It is not easy,” he said. “I still work because I have family and I have kids and I have to maintain them.”

At the Food Market, you can travel to the other side of the world in only ten steps and try authentic Jamaican food at Cook Wi A Cook.

Troy Munn, the owner of Cook Wi A Cook, started his business after many of his peers suggested he open a restaurant based on the quality of the food he served at parties and celebrations.

Originally from Fredericton, Munn spent a lot of time in Jamaica, where he learned about the rich cuisine that the Caribbeans offer: a healthier alternative compared to fast food chains found in Canada.

“I would have the food there and then I come back here, and I wait in the drive-thru line for some subpar food at an unreasonable price and unreasonable portion,” he said.

Alongside Munn, Derrick Atkinson, from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, has been working at Cook Wi A Cook ever since he got a taste of the food.

“I feel good knowing that just coming here at the time of COVID and seeing a Jamaican flag and saying ‘Okay, I could find something to eat where I could feel at home,’” said Atkinson. “Everybody has good food, but you want authentic Caribbean food and I found it here at this place, so I never left it.”

Munn cooks everything as authentic as he can, as he notes the importance of each ingredient in his recipes.

“If it’s one different brand of curry, [Jamaicans] will know,” said Munn.

“The way he cooks it is like… the old times,” added Atkinson.

At the same market, you can jump from Jamaican flavours to South Korean cuisine.

SunHi Lee owns the stand Korean Kitchen, and has been working in Fredericton for approximately 13 years.

Lee has a special connection with her customers and feels proud of how much the Korean culture has grown over the years and how diverse Fredericton is.

“Canada is made with a variety of immigrant people, so it’s not just one culture, we have to have respect [for] other cultures too,” Lee said.