Toronto woman built a thriving Jamaican patty business from scratch during lockdown
The words "beef patties" and "gourmet" aren't often found in the same sentence in Toronto, but one woman is on a mission to change all that.
Opal Rowe is the founder of Stush, a self-described gourmet patty company that makes everything from classic beef patties to patties with fillings like curried shrimp, jerk chicken, lentils, Swiss chard and salted tofu.
She's actually a completely self-taught patty maker, and had never even watched patties being made before giving it a try herself.
"One night two years ago, I came home and wanted something warm, delicious and somewhat healthy, to enjoy with a glass of wine," Rowe tells blogTO.
"I had an intense craving for a Jamaican patty. So, I went on the hunt to find something that would feel like a satisfying meal and not a greasy snack, but I couldn't find one. So, I made one."
Rowe owned a home care company before and has no training or experience in the food industry.
"I was purely driven by my intense desire and passion," says Rowe.
Rowe admits she was inspired to make gourmet patties when she was reading about Patties Express and stumbled across the phrase "I don't ask (don't want to know) where the meat comes from."
Rowe says she loved Patties Express for a quick go-to, but craved something more.
"This was why when I craved a patty that night it all started, none of the run-of-the-mill patties would satisfy my craving," says Rowe.
"I thought but there must be some gourmet patties around and became obsessed with finding such a patty, but couldn't."
This is where the inspiration for the name Stush comes from: "stush" is Jamaican slang for proper or good.
"The Jamaican patty is one of the most iconic snack foods of all time, but as snack food culture was getting the premium treatment, the patty wasn't," says Rowe.
"Until now. We are transforming the humble snack patty into a premium product, in the same way fast food hamburger is transformed into a gourmet meal served at fine restaurants. We do so by making proper patties."
A proper golden yellow flaky crust is filled with good ingredients like grass-fed chuck ground to exact specifications, or local farm-to-table Swiss chard.
Rowe also notes that some other patty places use frozen corn, beans, peas and carrots for their veggie patties, and wants to ensure that her brand caters adequately to desires for a high quality vegan patty as well.
Instead of traditional beef lard, Rowe uses vegetable fat in her pastry, and has two vegan filling options: jerk soy chicken and veggie lentil.
Rowe started operating Stush just before lockdowns began hitting Canada, selling and delivering directly to customers.
Despite the tough times that would ensue, Stush delivered 50 dozen patties some weeks to weddings and parties as far as Whitby and Burlington.
At the start of 2021, she started selling wholesale to businesses like cafes and grocery stores.
You can also find them at pop-ups, typically at bars and breweries across the city (Rowe says they're great with beer).
Though they now primarily sell to other businesses, you can still purchase patties in bulk direct from Stush, but there's a minimum order of $144. Six-packs of patties start at $18 and range up to $30.
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