For Brampton caterer Ryan Hamilton, the upcoming Carabram multicultural festival is a chance to market his company and introduce people to Caribbean food.
“It’s very important because you get to showcase what you can do,” he told YourMississaugaBiz.com.
“You definitely try to set yourself apart and be the best, introduce new flavours and put a little twist so people can experience a little taste of the Caribbean.”
The owner of the Chef Squad Caterers is participating in the Carabram for the first time as part of the Caribbean pavilion, located at the Chris Gibson Recreation Centre on McLaughlin Road North.
The event is expected to attract 1,500 people over the festival’s three days.
For a crowd that size, Hamilton recruited a staff of seven and already started prepping the food. “I season my stuff up four days in advance,” Hamilton said. “Just so I know I’m not rushing the day before or two days before.”
Since Chef Squad does very little advertising, most of Hamilton’s business is private bookings through word-of-mouth referrals.
Participation in events like Carabram is Hamilton’s primary form of marketing in the summer. “That’s when you have the opportunity to introduce your food and culture to different kinds of people,” he said. “It’s definitely an exciting time.”
However, Hamilton called such events “high-risk” to invest in and he said he picks the events he does participate in selectively and limits himself to one or two summer festivals per year. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out in your favour,” he explained. “They could tell you they expect 20,000 people and you don’t get them. So you buy food and you waste it.”
Hamilton cited an experience with a Bollywood festival in downtown Toronto two years ago where vendors were told to expect 60,000 people in their contracts. “And there wasn’t even 5,000 people,” he said. “So that was a huge loss for us.”
For Carabram, Hamilton estimated he’s already invested about $5,000 in supplies and staff. However, he hoped that his specialty menu, especially the popular jerk chicken and less common jerk pork, will draw in enough crowds and repeat customers to make the investment worthwhile.
“That’s one of the greatest rewards, when someone comes up and buys food five or six times,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a great feeling, because you know they really love the food and that person will tell someone, ‘Hey, this food is great!’”
Now in its 31st year, the Carabram multicultural festival features pavilions from 13 different countries and cultures.
Entirely run by thousandas of volunteers, the not-for-profit event features performances, a variety of food, costumes and displays. This year’s event features diverse pavilions such as Hawaii/Polynesia, Eelam and Myanmar.
Carabram will take place this weekend from July 12 to July 14 across Brampton. Passports for the event are available for $10 online and include unlimited use of Brampton Transit.