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Let’s Eat: Building an inclusive community

Three international students want to contribute to the community of Thunder Bay.

The Outsiders, a new restaurant that caters to the late night crowd, was started by three international students in November last year.

Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, Souvik Mukherjee and Mohammad Faisal met in Thunder Bay after moving here to study. Kamal and Faisal are from Bangladesh, and Mukherjee is from India, but the three bonded over their shared mother language, Bengali.

The young entrepreneurs had no restaurant experience prior to moving to Canada, but Kamal and Faisal found jobs at chain restaurants in Thunder Bay. Then, after Kamal started working at the local restaurant Apple Chipotle on Court Street, the possibility of opening their own place emerged.

The three thought there might be a niche for them to fill, late at night when local restaurants are closed. The owners of Apple Chipotle agreed to let the trio use the kitchen after hours. “They were great to deal with, and they are mentors and guides through the whole process, helping us,” Kamal says gratefully.

The Outsiders, located on 42 Court Street South (inside Apple Chipotle) is a takeout-only restaurant open Friday through Sunday until 2 a.m. The menu is centred around pub food, and Mukherjee says, “The first things that come to your mind when you have a midnight craving are all on the menu.”

Their best selling burger is the Juicy Lucy, popular in Minneapolis, south of the border. Unlike a traditional cheeseburger, the Juicy Lucy has cheese in the patty instead of on top. The Outsiders Dirty Bird chicken sandwich is also a customer favourite.

The inspiration for their menu often comes from outside Thunder Bay, but the three add their own spin on it, they say. They also try to source local ingredients whenever possible, ordering their meat from George’s Market, the buns from Roma Bakery, and cheese curds from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm.

“We try to work with local businesses and other entrepreneurs,” Kamal says. “We believe in growing together.”

Some partnerships include Narrow Gate Foods, which has created an exclusive flavour, pineapple peach kombucha, for the Outsiders, and Shumka Dust, which created a new spice blend, the Outsiders Inferno.

“In the summer, we will try to have more locally sourced vegetables,” Kamal adds.

It’s been a busy four months since the trio started the Outsiders. “It’s literally a ‘big’ crew of three people,” Mukherjee says, “we do everything from grocery shopping to dishwashing.”

He has a full-time job during the day, while the other two still study; Kamal takes business marketing at Confederation College while Faisal is pursuing his Honours Bachelor of Commerce at Lakehead University.

Thunder Bay has a very strong community, Mukherjee says, which encouraged them to embark on their culinary adventure. “When we started this, we got an overwhelming response from the people of the city of Thunder Bay,” he acknowledges.

“All three of us, we don’t plan on leaving this city, because this city has given us a lot. We just feel that it’s time for us to give back to the community of Thunder Bay what we have gotten from them. Try and contribute to the community,” he adds.

The three are hopeful that as pandemic restrictions are lifted, people will get together more, because their food is perfect for parties. “We want to be a part of their party,” Mukherjee says.

“We are outsiders. We are not from Canada. But it’s not only us; everyone is an outsider, one way or another,” he says. “An inclusive community is what we believe in. We want to address all the outsiders that are out there, and make them insiders. And we want to be insiders in this country, this city as well.”

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