For as long as they can remember, Odette and Douglas Chin have aspired to open a restaurant that would offer local residents flavours that are reminiscent of island life. In 2019, after moving to Thunder Bay from Geraldton, the time seemed right.
“We took a leap of faith… and here we are today,” says Odette Chin.
Their eatery, the Real Jamaican Jerk, nestled on the corner of Red River Road and Rupert Street, is the couple’s culinary brainchild serving a wide range of Jamaican dishes that enrich the Thunder Bay food scene.
Those who have frequented the restaurant would be familiar with their signature jerk chicken, curry goat and coconut toto. Other notable options cooked up in Jamaican Jerk’s kitchen include fried ripe plantain, stew pork and beans, jerk wings and Jamaican fruitcake.
The pandemic has been a trying time for all small businesses, especially those in the service industry. Chin says that while the restaurant has faced its fair share of challenges trying to work through the kinks of COVID-19 and marketing their product, she feels grateful to be based in a city that has continued to offer their support.
“Our customer base has stuck with us and pushed our product to other customers. I’d like to think it’s because we make a good product, but it means a lot to have the help from others that have helped continue to build up our business, regardless of the situation.”
Amongst regular temperature checks for staff, regimented cleaning after each order pick-ups and mandatory mask wearing, the restaurant has tried to make the option of take-out more accessible. This includes partnering with platforms like Skip the Dishes and Taliup Express. Chin says customers can also order on their website or via telephone by calling the restaurant. So far, she says, these decisions have been worth it, but she is looking forward to the day when she is able to welcome residents of Thunder Bay once again for a sit down meal.
Until then, Chin hopes that people will continue to support her family’s restaurant. After all, she says, if people weren’t able to travel to a tropical oasis the past two years, food seems like the next best thing.
“We strive to provide people with some sunshine and a feel of that Jamaican holiday spirit,” she says. “When they taste our food, hopefully it brings up a memory of the last time they were in Jamaica or at least they can get a taste of what they can look forward to when they do go.”