Parked in a corner of the TSC lot at Bronte Road and Main Street, hand-painted in Rasta colours and housing an authentic Jamaican Jerk Pan is a food truck that has been open for just months here in Milton. Winston Brown and his family have lived in Milton for nine years. He used to own a restaurant in Brampton. “While I owned the restaurant I built this [truck] in the back of the restaurant. I licensed it, put it out front and this paid the bills for the restaurant. So I closed down the restaurant, bought myself out of my lease and brought the truck to Milton.” It took almost nine months for Brown to get his license. He says he almost gave up a couple of times, but that it was worth the wait.
Brown is proud of his truck. “I built it, I painted it.” Common Jamaican expressions are painted on its side: Ya Man, Wa a Gwan?, and Soon Come. And Milton loves Winnie’s Jerk—Brown sells out of food every day. As I stand at the shop speaking to him, three people come by looking for food but he is already closed for the day. Brown smiles at his patrons as he tells them that “Ya Man, I’m out of food.” The response from one patron is an ardent, “Oh no!” Brown buys fresh food daily. He gets his chicken from Sargent Farms insisting that buying local is a must. He’s also looking for storage and prepping space (for his sauces that customers want to buy from him ready-made), and a pork supplier that will be able to meet the demand.
Born in Montreal, Brown was raised in Jamaica by his grandparents until he was 15. He was cooking with his grandmother from the age of five. “This will sound strange. But, back in Jamaica, in the late 60s and 70s, we had a slingshot and we’d go out and shoot birds to eat.” What kinds of birds did they hunt in Jamaica? Dove, Baldpate, sparrows, and woodpecker was his favourite because it had the most meat on it. “My grandma, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I was always with her. Always. She was making her curry chicken and I was there when she was making her rice and peas. All those things I was making by the time I was 10 years old.” Brown went to school for welding, but he’s never used his welding certifications. He is a cook at heart, and he always just knew that he wanted to do this.
The success has caught him pleasantly off-guard and already Winnie’s Jerk has an enthusiastic and loyal following. Brown would like to have a second small portable truck for catering and parties, which he gets a lot of requests for.
THE JERK MENU
Every day – Jerk chicken or pork and steamed fish
Friday and Saturday – Oxtail, curry goat, steamed fish, red pea soup or corn soup, beef patties, chicken patties, rice and peas and coleslaw
THE WINNIE’S JERK GLOSSARY
“Wa a Gwan” means how ya doing?
“Soon Come” is mildly sarcastic and comical, meaning something could take five minutes, five hours or five years!
Winnie’s Jerk is a family affair. Winston’s 15-year old daughter and her friend work at the truck on weekends. Winnie’s Jerk is also planning a customer appreciation event at the end of the season, and there will be no charge for food. Brown will be raising money for Sick Kids in memory of his three-year-old daughter, Marley. Marley spent a lot of time at Sick Kids, and then, Brown says that the hospital continued to support his family when they brought Marley home to care for her. Marley was three years old when she passed away on Mother’s Day 2016.
What would Brown’s grandmother say about Winnie’s Jerk? Brown laughs heartily. She would say, “Good Job! Ya Man.”
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