A popular Hyde Park restaurant known for its Asian–Caribbean fusion cuisine is expanding. Zaz (stylized as ZaZ), which chef and owner Olrie Roberts opened nearly a decade ago, is known for dishes like jerk chicken, jerk salmon hushpuppies, ginger teriyaki cauliflower, rice and beans, and stewed oxtail. It recently expanded its outdoor seating by adding a colorfully painted patio space, but Roberts is looking to go one step further by adding a food truck to the restaurant’s repertoire.
“Pretty much Zaz on wheels,” says Roberts. “We’d shrink the menu down a bit, but we’d feature a lot of the same flavors. We’d serve more bowls as opposed to big plates, lots of apps, quick bites. We’d make our food more accessible to folks ... The combinations are pretty unique, so folks get something that they can’t get at any other restaurant.”
Roberts says he isn’t envisioning a traditional food truck like the ones that drive around the city from spot to spot, reeling in hungry lunch crowds in busy business districts. Instead, the Zaz food truck will be more focused on private events and late nights. “We’re not envisioning a ‘chilling out by the carnival’ sort of thing.”
In addition to a full-service restaurant, Zaz also functions as a caterer, working private events, weddings, and various other kinds of parties. The transition from catering private events to showing up to private events with a food truck would therefore be an easy one. “We’re already getting inquiries, and we’re not even done [with the plan] yet,” says Roberts.
Roberts grew up in the Caribbean — in Grenada and Trinidad — with his grandparents, who instilled in him a love of fresh produce, seafood, and spices. He moved to the United States as a teenager and later began a career as a welder before finding his way into restaurant kitchens. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge and made his way to Mallorca, Spain, to work as a stagiaire.
His training eventually brought him back to the states, where he trained at Ying’s Sushi Bar & Lounge in Hyannis before working in the kitchens of Konditor Meister in Braintree and Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy. Eventually, Roberts opened Zaz (the restaurant is named for his kids, Zariah and Zalin.)
Roberts is trying to raise funds for the expansion through the crowdfunding platform NuMarket. Anyone who contributes to Zaz’s NuMarket campaign will get their contribution plus 20 percent back to spend as credit at Zaz once the expansion is fully funded. Payouts will occur monthly, in equal measures, over the course of a year.
For the time being, head to Hyde Park for some of those jerk salmon hushpuppies.