‘Like mama’s cooking’: Legendary Caribbean chefs join Toronto’s Fahmee Bakery

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s Fahmee Bakery acquires legendary Caribbean chefs, hoping to bounce back after tough year'
Toronto’s Fahmee Bakery acquires legendary Caribbean chefs, hoping to bounce back after tough year
WATCH: A Caribbean bakery and restaurant is hoping to make a comeback after being forced to close one of its popular locations during the pandemic – Dec 12, 2022

Fahmee Bakery has had a lot on its plate recently.

First, the pandemic. Then, in May a fire ripped through its beloved Scarborough location, which was best known for its Jamaican beef patties.

“That kind of messed everything up,” said Fahmee Bakery owner and CEO Faiz Abdella. “We’ve been struggling to make patties but I’ve found a small kitchen where we can make them on the weekends.”

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As a result of the fire, Abdella had to permanently close the Scarborough location. The Caribbean chain is also one of the hundreds of restaurants in the city dealing with inflation and supply chain issues.

Nearing the end of an incredibly tough emotional and financial year, Abdella realized he would need more than just patties to turn his year around. So, he called in retired chefs Michael Moses aka ‘Nutsman,’ and his wife, Carol Bailey, to take over Fahmee’s Weston location. The couple is considered legendary in the Caribbean community.

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In the 90s, Nutsman and Bailey brought their Grenadian, Trinidadian and Guyanese roots to the streets selling hot peanuts, rotis and soups. Prior to selling the food out of the back of a van, they commuted from place to place, attending everything from parties to construction sites.

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“I was from Grenada but I grew up in Trinidad, so we do a lot of peanuts and channa on the streets. So I said ‘I will start a peanut business,'” Nutsman told Global News.

“That’s how he got the name ‘Nutsman,'” said Bailey.

“We didn’t have a vehicle at the time, so we’d put everything in coolers and we’d literally get on the bus and we lived in the east and we’d go all the way to the west end.”

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A few years ago, the couple opened a restaurant on Silverthorne Avenue, but it didn’t survive the pandemic. According to Abdella, it was an underground spot only those in the Caribbean community knew about. It was how he first met Nutsman and Bailey.

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“I just went in there and it was Caribbean food but nothing there that you would find in any other Caribbean restaurant that you would find in the city,” said Abdella. “That’s one thing to do something different but the flavour was just amazing. Even the way he does rice and peas, or mac and cheese, the way he does pumpkin stew or jerk chicken, it’s like ‘this is the best I’ve had of these dishes.'”

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Abdella says Bailey, a trained bakery and pastry artist educated by George Brown and Nutsman, who fuses nostalgic homestyle Caribbean flavours into their cooking, made magic in the kitchen. But it was the atmosphere of the restaurant and the way they treated customers that made the couple special.

“If you didn’t have enough money they cut you a break. It just felt like a home every time I was there,” he said.

Abdella and the couple then partnered to start selling food at the Weston farmers’ market every Saturday.

“People really loved it. And for the first time, I witnessed a different demographic than even here in Weston. Caribbean people: Grenadian, Guyanese, you started seeing your people.”

Click to play video: 'Hearty Carribean cuisine'
Hearty Carribean cuisine

Not long after, as Abdella had plans to reopen the Weston location, he realized he didn’t have the funds to do so by himself. He once again joined forces with the couple, who agreed to co-own the restaurant and bakery. It will soon be officially named “Carol’s.”

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The menu will be similar to the duo’s under-the-radar restaurant and what they served at the farmers’ market with everything from souse, to curry duck, saltfish and bake and much more.

“I like to take our Caribbean food and display it in a whole different new way,” said Bailey. “And Faiz is the same way. He loves the adventure of food and tantalizing people’s taste buds in different ways.”

“Sometimes in our Caribbean community we’re stuck in our ways and this is the way something is supposed to be. I’m not like that, I like to experiment.”

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The hope is to keep quality Caribbean food alive while keeping the location afloat. Sandra Khan who is a regular customer, says “when you eat this food, you feel like you’re back home, like mama’s cooking.”

When asked what it means to be a prominent figure in the Caribbean community, Nutsman said he sees cooking as a “service.”

“I do it to the best. People to me are family. All of them are my family.”

Fahmee Bakery, or soon-to-be Carol’s, is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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