“Woah, have mercy. The jerk chicken,” says Pat Dillon as she raises her hands in praise.
She’s sitting at a table, laughing and joking, with Chef Lloyd Williams at the Caribbean Food Factory restaurant (101-5311 Boulevard de Maisonneuve O).
“In the 30 years I’ve known you, I’ve never seen this jacket,” she says gesturing to Williams’ crisp-white chef’s coat. “I love it.”
“Oh, it’s brand new,” he laughs, noting that his family bought it for him just before filming the segment, and they high-five.
Caribbean Food Factory is a restaurant that has been at its location for less than a year — but that’s not to mean Williams is a rookie chef.
He’s been a pro in the kitchen for 25 years.
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“I’m looking at that rice and peas and I know that you grated the coconut from fresh, didn’t you?” asks Dillon.
“Yes, from fresh,” Williams confirms.
“And you made the milk yourself, right?” she asks.
“Exactly,” he states.
“And you squeeze the milk and you season it up with the onion, the thyme and then you boiled your peas — canned peas?” Dillon presses on.
“No, real peas,” he insists.
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Williams has been in Montreal since the last 1970s; Dillon was born here.
“I’m first generation Canadian, but my siblings are older than me, so it’s one household,” she explains.
“Your parents are not raising you any different than the others. Likewise, parents tend to raise their children how they were raised, so apart from the -40 C with the -45 degrees windchill factor, you still are being raised with Caribbean values, Caribbean food.”
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One striking memory from her childhood is a drink called Ting.
“Anybody who’s Caribbean, somebody from the family’s going home and somebody is bringing something back,” Dillon explains.
“So, for the little kids, they had to bring back the cola champagne, you had to bring back a Ting.”
According to Dillon Jamaicans have had a strong presence in Montreal since the 1940s — maybe even the 1930s — but it wasn’t always Bob Marley and reggae music.
“[The biggest stereotype about Jamaican people is ] we’re violent. It’s not true,” she says.
“You really have to piss us off badly. No, we’re the most reasonable. Even us blended Canadians. We’ve very, very, very reasonable.”
Dillon recalls a time where “English-speaking blacks” were all assumed to be Jamaican, and French speakers were “Haitian.”
With that kind of history in Canada, traces of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to police brutality and racial profiling are being felt north of the U.S. border.
“Some days it feels like everything is OK — that one-in-two times there is that police officer who pulls you over for a ticket and he can be reasonable,” Dillon said.
“Let’s be fair, police are human, too, and I do understand when they say they want to go home at the end of the day and they fear for their lives, given the various situations they can go into.”
“That said, racial profiling is real.”
So how do you stay positive in such an intense political climate?
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“We have to embrace where you are, you know, and try to live where you are because no matter what, this is where you live. You have to work with it,” explains Williams.
“A lot of people who are not Caribbean people, but who love this type of food, they’re coming in here a lot. We see them a lot and it makes us so happy, yes it’s true.”
Food — and their distinct accent — is definitely one way Jamaicans share their culture with the rest of the world.
“We know it’s coc’nut rice and peas, right?” Dillon jokes.
“Right,” Williams affirms.
“We’re not pronouncing that ‘o,’ it’s coc’nut rice and peas,” Dillon laughs.
“You know what a lot of cooking is though? Rituals.”
Just Like Home is a series that discovers the restaurants and places Montrealers from all walks of life go to have a little, nostalgic taste of their home countries.