After more than half a decade of intense efforts, Boston catering and food truck business Fresh Food Generation opened the doors of its new Caribbean American restaurant on November 10 at 185 Talbot Ave. in Dorchester.
Cassandria Campbell and Jackson Renshaw, founders of Fresh Food Generation, always knew they wanted to see their food business transform into a restaurant, but it was always a matter of “time and funding,” says Campbell. When they initially developed the business, they did so with a mix of crowdfunding and small loans, which helped them get space inside Dorchester-based food incubator and commercial kitchen CommonWealth Kitchen. Renting space allowed them to refine their menu, grow their customer base, and expand their team. However, shared kitchen space has its limitations; the business outgrew the incubator. In March 2020 the search for a new home began.
Campbell and her team are not afraid of a challenge. She notes that perseverance in the face of adversity are common themes in Fresh Food Generation’s journey, and she often reflects on the challenges that face many small businesses, in particular entrepreneurs of color seeking capital to start and grow their businesses. “There is a lot stacked against you, but my advice is to be prepared to fight that battle,” she says, conceding that it was reassuring that after the challenges they faced, the business had finally reached a point where potential investors could not deny it was a “real business and worthy of investment.”
Catering was 80 percent of the business at one point, but finding a way to connect to the public differently during the pandemic — when many catered events were canceled or postponed — was critical to the success of Fresh Food Generation. The catering business shifted to more of a focus on the individual customer with at-home meal delivery service, which gave chef Maux Morgan a chance to get creative with the menu and also collaborate with other local food companies such as Sweet Teez Bakery, Clarke’s Cakes and Cookies, and Hillside Harvest, all fellow CommonWealth Kitchen entrepreneurs. Diners can expect this to continue and even expand with the opening of the restaurant. Fresh Food’s team is open to collaboration and is interested in hosting other brands and pop-ups in the new space.
Fresh Food Generation’s founders view the restaurant as a way to connect with existing and new customers in a different way than they have in the past. People won’t have to chase down the truck or wait until they attend an event to try the food.
“We could not have asked for a better location,” Campbell says, adding that at one point she was receiving emails and messages about this address at least three times a week from people in her network that knew she was looking for a space. The restaurant, close to Dorchester’s Codman Square and near key partners like the Urban Farming Institute, is part of the team’s community. Many of the staff members are within walking distance of the restaurant, and Campbell herself attended the Lee school across the street.
The food that comes out of the Fresh Food Generation kitchen is labeled farm-to-plate Caribbean American, something that’s reflected in the makeup of the staff. Campbell, who is Jamaican American, is surrounded by a global team with a chef from Haiti, a chef from the American South, and team members from Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, and Montserrat. Those individual influences manifest as a cultural fusion on the menu that feels fresh to regular customers as well as new ones.
The core menu includes fan favorites such as the jerk chicken and the kale salad, complemented with new and pandemic-devised dishes and dressings such as the sweet and savory pineapple salsa, empanadas, Jamaican escovitch (a spicy pickled vegetable dish), and duck confit. Starting in April 2022, diners will have the option of eating outdoors on a 30-seat patio; for now, there is limited countertop seating indoors.
With the opening of the restaurant, Fresh Food Generation plans to continue operating its food truck, catering, and home delivery services. The team hopes to get into brunch in the near future and to eventually acquire a liquor license, too. With the holidays rapidly approaching, Thanksgiving meal packages and home delivery announcements will be coming soon; interested fans can watch for updates on Instagram and the company’s website.