July 28, 2023

Black Food Features! Spotlight on: The Peoples Caribbean Dutch Pot

Summer means picnic season in Toronto, and so of course Riverdale Park is popping with friends and families coming together to enjoy the sunset and share food.

Just north of the park is the perfect spot to stop for some tasty takeaway: The Peoples Caribbean Dutch Pot. The restaurant has been in business for 27 years —  the last 7 of those in the Riverdale/Danforth area at its 751 Broadview Ave address and we’re excited to spotlight it as another FoodShare team favourite for Black Food Features. 

This series was cooked up to highlight some of our team’s favourite Black-owned restaurants here in Toronto. Photographed for FoodShare by the talented Brianna Roye (@briannablank on Instagram) we wanted to bring you some of the Black folks in our city who are building community through food. We were tired of seeing features like these show up on our feeds in February and disappear for the rest of the year, folks are Black after February too!

Connie Pérez – as part of her internship at FoodShare – had the opportunity to sit down and interview the owner and chef of The Peoples Caribbean Dutch Pot: Inez Gayle. 

Read on to hear more from Connie’s chat with Ms. Gayle about her community, restaurant, and passion for food. 

As soon as I entered the restaurant, I was welcomed by the aroma of fresh and flavourful Caribbean food and her friendly staff. A brief history of the restaurant: Ms. Gayle opened her doors in 1996, with her very first location at River Street and Dundas, then called the Island Grill. In 2016, she relocated and purchased her Broadview location now known as The People’s Caribbean Dutch Pot. 

Front and centre: Ms. Gayle outside the shop that welcomes folks in with its sunny yellow facade. Photo by Brianna Roye.

I was intrigued by her decision to move locations, and naturally, I asked what made her choose this location. She said she was immediately fascinated with the multicultural environment that the neighbourhood offered and since that was her number one goal when looking for a new spot, it was an obvious decision for her.  

Ms. Gayle shared that as soon as the previous owner of the current location showed her around, she knew it was the perfect spot. The liveliness, friendly community members, and the multicultural vibe of the area was just what she was looking for. 

Ms. Gayle explained that she was most interested in finding a place where she could find as many people from different ethnic backgrounds as possible because she wanted to share her food with people from all over the world and all walks of life. 

Given the many hats Ms. Gayle wears, including chef, owner, and mom, I asked her, “What inspired you to open your restaurant?”, and with a big smile on her face, she said, “Well, it’s simple I love cooking and I love food. I wanted to bring something that I was taught by my grandmother, for everyone to enjoy or for some to try. It’s what I love to do and from there it just grew.”

Ms. Gayle further explained that the restaurant was a tribute to her grandmother for teaching her how to cook many moons ago, and she wanted to share her passion for cooking and delicious flavourful food with everyone in the community. I asked Ms. Gayle what her favourite dish was, and she said “It has to be the jerk chicken. I love the spices; it’s spicy and it just tastes really nice. After that, my next favourite would be the oxtail. And funny enough, our most sold-out dishes are also the jerk chicken and oxtail.”

Mixing it up: Ms. Gayle stirs up one of the dishes that make her place an east end Jamaican gem. Photo by Brianna Roye.

We laughed and connected through our common struggle of her trying to teach her daughter how to cook, and my struggle to learn recipes from my mama. It turns out that the way Ms. Gayle tries to teach her daughter her recipes is the same way my mom tries to teach me hers. Ms. Gayle’s daughter and I share the same style of learning; we need measurements every time we cook, and Ms. Gayle and my mama’s way of teaching us how to cook is the old-school way — the same way they were taught — which is by watching and being present in the kitchen. It seems hard to believe that a little pinch of this and an elbow slam of that will be enough for us youngsters to remember a recipe. 

This was not the only struggle Ms. Gayle encountered. I could slowly see Ms. Gayle’s face sadden as I asked her how her business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She described it almost as a fever dream; in the blink of an eye, everything was shut down. 

At the very beginning of the pandemic, some days she came in and would basically have to give the food away, as she didn’t want to throw it out or for it to go spoiled. Once the severity of the pandemic became clear, she started cutting down how much she was cooking and started cooking in much smaller batches that would be just enough to last her for the day. 

Soon enough, a small number of people started to come in, and advised her to start online sales and so she did. Ms. Gayle started to receive a lot of online orders. “I would say sales were cut in half and it was bad. I couldn’t pay my bills, my rent was skyrocketing, and my debt was all going up and by the grace of God, I hung on and I tried to keep it going and here we are today,” she shared. As soon as the Covid situation started to improve, her customers were surprised and happy her business didn’t close, and although this warmed her heart, she soon came to realize that she had lost many of her customers.

Ms. Gayle sits at a table in her restaurant, The Peoples Caribbean Dutch Pot. Photo by Briana Roye.

I asked, “Have you been able to recuperate what you lost during the pandemic?” 

“I’m getting there!” she said optimistically. Not only does she have the challenge to repay the debt that COVID-19 caused her, but now she’s faced with sky-rocketing food prices making her business harder to sustain than ever before. 

Despite these challenges, she has still found a way to give back to her community: by teaming up with Too Good To Go, a food waste app where businesses and restaurants post end-of-day foods at reduced prices. The listings are presented as surprise bags, and customers can see listings in their area and buy the food in surprise bags before it reaches the landfill. Sellers increase their sales and customers reduce spending while addressing important economic, social, and sustainability issues together. 

She said that she feels she is making an impact in her community by joining the app; her customers can get their favourite meals at a reduced cost and there’s also no food waste in her kitchen. 

I’m grateful to be able to celebrate and spotlight Ms. Gayle, her business, and her hard work. If you’re in the area and are craving some delicious Caribbean food, don’t hesitate to stop by and support her business by trying any of the exquisite meals on the menu. Ms. Gayle is looking forward to feeding you on your next visit! 

Ms. Gayle stands proudly in front of her foodservice counter at The Peoples Caribbean Dutch Pot. Photo by Brianna Roye.


About the writer

Connie Pérez spent this spring and summer as FoodShare’s Marketing and Communications  Assistant in connection with her studies in Professional Writing and Communications. She comes to us with experience in connecting people with her writing and her participation in food sustainability initiatives. Connie is a recent post-graduate from Centennial College with an eagerness to learn, create, write meaningful stories, and share FoodShare’s vision of a Toronto where all people can feed themselves, their loved ones, and their communities with dignity and joy.