Businessman Damian Chow puts Sangre Grande on food-hub map

Customers enjoy the ambience and meal available at the Grande Food Hub. - AYANNA KINSALE
Customers enjoy the ambience and meal available at the Grande Food Hub. - AYANNA KINSALE

What comes to mind when you think of Sangre Grande?

Businessman Damian Chow hopes in the near future, good food, amazing service and friendly people will be the answer.

Known primarily for running Chow's Service Bay in Sangre Grande, Chow is now entering into the food business.

On March 9, an idea conceptualised five years ago finally came into fruition: Grande Food Hub.

At the corner of Co-operative Street and Alfonso Street, Grande Food Hub, which opens Thursday-Sunday from 4 pm-10 pm, provides an assortment of culinary options to satisfy any palate. There will also be cakes and pastries, art and craft items, handmade gourmet soaps and lotions.

The perimeter of the food hub is fenced with wooden planks to create a homely cabin vibe. Twelve food huts are housed inside with concrete benches and tables down the middle.

Chow told Business Day, "There are three things we really want to accomplish here: we want to bring some optics to our town. I love Sangre Grande and I want to see our community grow in different aspects, especially in the business and economics – we want to be part of the conversation in Trinidad; we want to see our vendors have a platform to monetise their creativity; we want to bring our community together in a family-friendly environment.

"We hope that Grande Food Hub can be that place and be this true visitor destination point."

Chow, a member of the Eastern Business and Merchants Association (EBMA), said the aim is to make a difference in the community. He credited the EBMA for injecting commercial life in Sangre Grande through a number of events in the last three years, including the one-day Taste of Grande food event.

Businessman Damian Chow welcomes all to the Grande Food Hub, Alfonso Street, Sangre Grande. - AYANNA KINSALE

He said Grande Food Hub will be a spot where all different flavours and styles of food will be available.

"There will be ten resident chefs on monthly lease. Two booths will remain open for guest vendors. They can come and share their gourmet-style or unique foods and expand their markets to Grande, or young chefs in Grande to come and try for the weekend and showcase their items or products.

"This is a little bit different from the model from all the other food venues...What makes this a bit different, first of all, this is in Grande. We're basically saying, make a trip Grande, don't just go through Grande to go to Toco.

"We're bringing street food at its best but we're doing it unique.

"We're looking first to our local people, in the environs of Sangre Grande, but opening doors for people all over Trinidad to come. Get a lil taste of the outside, but a flavour of what Grande is like.

"Can we become part of the foodie conversation in Trinidad? Is there anything good in Grande? We are saying yes."

Among the various food vendors are MT Belly Wings – selling gourmet wings, from Korean-style to sorrel wings; Smokey's Seafood – baked fish, roast fish, lobster, oysters etc; El Orinoco Grill's traditional Venezuelan foods; Dave's Backyard BBQ; Freddy Bake and Shark; a sushi vendor; a gourmet burger vendor; and Ry's pastry parlour. Chow said there will also be gourmet doubles and other delights available.

Plantain sushi is on the menu at Sushi-Ton at The Grande Food Hub. - AYANNA KINSALE

"Yuh doh have to go Maracas to get bake and shark, yuh doh have to go Penal for doubles, everything will be right here," Chow said.

"Our vision (is): Grande is more than just a town we go through to go to the beaches. There is a lot of history here. We were built on cocoa estates. There are a lot of people in business for generations here. We have some talented people right here. We would love for this place to be a heritage site for people to learn about Sangre Grande. One of our vendors, his family is into creating Carnival costumes for two generations.

"We would love if every visitor that comes to Trinidad, local people say, 'Yuh have to come to Grande Food Hub.'

"The whole venture is that countryside vibes. You want people come to Grande, feel the friendlessness, the sweetness of the people and of the food too."

Grande Food Hub was launched on Sunday, with Toco/Sangre Grande MP Roger Monroe, Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman Anil Juteram and councillor Paul Mongolas at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

El Orinoco Grill

Zachary, owner of the Latin-style food business, said he was happy to be part of the initiative, "It's great. I think it's something that Grande needs – something different." He said he took part in a Taste of Grande a few months ago.

"We have on daily menu: arepas, empanados, tacos, Latin club sandwiches, parrilla (mixed grill) and milkshakes.

"The launch today, it's a great turnout," Zachary said. "You have the kids, non-alcoholic atmosphere. The feedback has been great, thank God."

Dave's Backyard BBQ

Owner Dave Lakhan, whose family in Grande has been involved in Carnival costume-making for years, said he jumped at the opportunity to move from the backyard to this new location. "When the offer came up, I was first to rush and organise. I wanted the business out from where I had it and into the front line.

"I am glad for the opportunity. It is good for Grande and put us on the map some more."

Kristan Flanders of Dave's Backyard BGG prepares barbecue pigtail at the Grande Food Hub. - AYANNA KINSALE

His dishes include BBQ chicken, pigtail, pork, lamb and fish. "I do soups as well. Side orders are roasted potatoes, fresh salad, pasta salad, fries.

"The taste is unique. You don't get that backyard taste anywhere. I am excited." Lakhan's business employs five workers.

Gazelle Handmade Soaps and more

Arimian Gazelle Peters has her booth near the entrance selling soaps, lotions and other items. She said, "All these items are handmade by me, with love. I have a passion for this. I really enjoy it."

Peters said she started her business about three years ago after attending community development classes and learning the skill. "From there, I further the rest for myself – pay and do advanced (classes).

Gazelle Peters offers a range of hand-made beauty-care products at her booth at the Grande Food Hub. - AYANNA KINSALE

Among her gourmet soaps are turmeric and orange peel powder, guava, caraille, oats milk and honey, charcoal and strawberry champagne. "I use fresh fruits and vegetables," she said.

"I try to fit everybody in. We have something for $20, $30, $40 or $50. You can try it and feel the love.

"You know what you getting in it. It's more healthy for the skin. It has yuh skin nice, not dry out. I have things for marks, eczema, discolouration."

Art by Shivana

Full-time artist Shivana Ramchune has a number of framed paintings, handmade cups, acrylic key chains, shot glasses and other items at her booth. She too took part in a Taste of Grande.

"Now I know how to prepare myself. I saw this opportunity and wanted to be a part of it.

"The location is really perfect. Come down here, you're getting everything all in one – art and craft and food.

Shivana said she previously sold her items at a plaza in Grande.

"At first it was hobby for me but now it is a lifestyle. I love what I do. If you believe in yourself enough and think you can make it, then go for it."


Visual arts teacher Athaliah Mohan sells visual-art paintings, digital art, graphic designs, plants, crotchet items, key chains, handbags, placement mats, and more. She said art has been a part of her life since she was a child.

"Very excited to be here for the launch, the opening day. Hoping to see a large crowd as the evening goes along."

Mohan said she usually displays her items at pop-up shops and one-day market events.

"I also offer visual arts lessons, certificate courses, sip and paint and art therapy."


"Businessman Damian Chow puts Sangre Grande on food-hub map"

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