Photos by Razan Samara
On Dec. 8, 2018 Jamaican Patty Shack food truck owners, Michael Thompson and Wendy Wright, introduced a piece of the island to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. Driven by the positive responses to their twists on classic beef patties, the couple decided to set up shop in a permanent location.
Thompson and Wright started the Jamaican Patty Shack food truck in July 2018 at the Because Beer Craft Beer Festival. The idea had been in their heads for a long time after the Jamaican couple had noticed a lack of availability of patties in the Hamilton area.
Since establishing the food truck, the couple has garnered public recognition that has drawn individuals from far and wide to taste their patties. They recently had a woman from Toronto come to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market simply to have their patties. When they visited Toronto for the Mac & Cheese Festival and Buskerfest last year, they were also invited to Toronto city hall by mayor John Tory.
The two have been involved in both culinary arts and customer service for a while, having done catering previously. Thompson traces his interest in food service back to his teenage years, working as a manager in Dairy Queen and in a West Indian restaurant called Willie’s Jerk. Wright is a baker and previously worked in a food truck in Toronto. By putting their heads together, the two came up with the idea of a Jamaican patty food truck.
“It’s for people on the go. It’s fast. It’s affordable. Our main aim… was to feed people on the go [for] ten dollars and under [so it’s] easy on the pocket,” said Thompson.
It’s not only the affordability of the patties that has contributed to its wide appeal but the customizability and variety that the Jamaican Patty Shack offers. This is not simply a spot for the traditional beef patty. Customers can top up their patty according to their own taste, adding ingredients such as cheese or jerk chicken or having their patty wrapped, stuffed, or grilled.
Both out-of-the-box thinkers, the couple is continuously experimenting at home with different flavours. The result is a number of unique twists, such the pattaco — a patty dressed up as a taco — or the reggae patty which is cut open and filled with jerk chicken coleslaw. With their innovations on a traditional recipe, the couple honours the history of the patty.
“Our main slogan is ‘Out of Many, One Patty’ and that’s… because of the Jamaican coat of arms which is ‘Out of Many, One People’ and so a lot of different cultures is what comes together to make Jamaica… [T]he patty has evolved from different cultures,” said Thompson.
By setting up shop in the Farmers’ Market, the couple also honours the market tradition in Jamaica. Providing fresh and quality food is important to the duo so they utilize produce from local farmers in their patties.
Setting up in the market also places Jamaican Patty Shack in the city they love and live in. Since coming to the Farmers’ Market, the Stoney Creek residents have discovered something of a family among the friendly and supportive market crowd. Being able to have personable and meaningful interactions with the members of the community they interact with every day was key to them.
“We want customers to feel happy to come and excited about coming to our spot… We’re trying to recreate that little piece of vacation that people have in their mind or in their memories so they come and we have a lit palm tree in the back, some reggae music playing and the service is always positive,” said Wright.
Looking to the future, Thompson and Wright hope to have pop-up shops on the outskirts of Hamilton. They are also looking into donating food to local food banks at the end of the day in order to give back to the community which has supported them as they have established their truck and taken root in the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.