People loved this Toronto man's backyard BBQ so much he turned it into a business
One Toronto man's backyard BBQ was such a hit with friends and family that over the course of the past year, they started begging him to make it into a business.
As of about five weeks ago, they've got their wish in the form of Backyaad Bites by Dominic Cobran. He cooks up Jamaican BBQ in his backyard and sells it on the weekends.
His full-time job is with Leslieville's BIA.
"Right now I spend weekdays fighting for small businesses and on weekends I operate one," Cobran tells blogTO.
Cobran is from Jamaica, where he worked as local economic development officer for the city of Kingston. His aunts and uncle owned several jerk businesses.
His mother had a food wagon in the early 90s, and he grew up seeing jerk meat prepared in a traditional jerk pan in the backyard.
Though he's had family here since the 1960s, he only moved to Canada in 2017.
He bought a grill pan in 2019, both out of boredom, and because he didn't think the jerk he was tasting around town was authentic enough.
"I would post to social media and people would be amazed," he says. "I was obsessed with lighting up the grill and soon started sharing the food with close friends."
"They kept asking why I was not going into the food business, but this for me was just my love of sharing."
Friends kept insisting on paying Cobran to cater their birthdays and picnics, and when the pandemic reared its ugly head, he decided to start an Instagram page. A local entrepeneur he met named Briana Slawter-Jackson who runs Queen B Kitchen even helped out with supplies.
"I was reluctant to believe that you could start a business at this time," Cobran says. "However, I saw a few businesses move into the BIA during the pandemic. If many saw this as a period of opportunity, then I could do it too."
"With the pandemic, and me fighting for businesses every day, I saw firsthand how resilient small businesses could be."
His weekly Instagram menus list options like jerk wings, pork, chicken leg quarters or salmon as well as shrimp kebabs, roast fish and rice and peas.
Prices hover around $15 a pound for most items. Payment is by cash or e-transfer, and you have until noon Thursday to DM your order and pick-up slot for Saturday or Sunday.
Most of the support for Backyaad Bites comes from residents of the Annex neighbourhood where Cobran lives.
"People are walking on the road, smell the grill and by the next week they have submitted their order," says Cobran.
And this recent cold snap hasn't stopped him from grilling.
"I grill in any season," says Cobran. "I've been known to do it outside in the snow for friends' birthdays."
Cobran is looking at ghost kitchen ideas and hopes to open a storefront within a year, but says no matter what, he plans to keep grills going out back.
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