Meet Tobias Brown, best known as Chef Tai, the visionary behind Tommies Jerk, a Jamaican jerk restaurant in Surrey, BC. In this success story, Chef Tai shares his passion for bringing people together through the joy of Caribbean food, specifically Jamaican jerk chicken.
Chef Tai’s love for food and community traces back to his early years when the universal bond of laughter, fun, and fellowship captured his heart. Inspired by the communal spirit around food, he embarked on a mission to share his love for Caribbean cuisine with the world.
“And that’s how I started in 2016… that was the first thing that let me know I had a thing.”
Chef Tai’s unofficial journey began in 2016, casually introducing his Jamaican jerk wings at gatherings. The turning point came at an event where one brave lady tried his wings, and soon, the word spread like wildfire. In 2017, he ventured into the vibrant atmosphere of Vancouver’s 420 events. Despite initial challenges, he struck gold, creating a demand for his flavourful offerings.
In late 2019, Chef Tai navigated uncertainties during the pandemic’s early days, forcing him to reassess and rediscover local resources. Adapting to the changing landscape, he focused on the Cloverdale community, building a loyal customer base.
BIPOC Foundation Involvement:
Chef Tai’s exploration led him to the BIPOC Foundation, where he found a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Engaging in their programs, he discovered valuable insights, professional support, and a network of experts who helped him overcome barriers and refine his business strategy.
Ups and Downs in Business:
Chef Tai acknowledges the inevitable ups and downs in the entrepreneurial journey. He handles criticisms gracefully, emphasizing the importance of resilience and persistence. His mantra of showing up daily, regardless of the challenges, has driven his success.
Courageous Moments and Lessons:
Chef Tai draws courage from his commitment to show up the next day, pay his employees, and persist despite uncertainty. He emphasizes the need to let go early in life, learn from failures, and keep moving forward passionately.
BIPOC Foundation Impact:
Participating in BIPOC Foundation programs brought in younger professionals whose insights, despite initial skepticism, became invaluable to Chef Tai’s business. The foundation’s resources, support, and mentorship helped him thrive in the evolving business landscape.
“I started going through the first cohort, and when you open yourself, it’s hard for business owners because you don’t know who to trust… but then you realize these folks are experts in their field, and you need what they need from their field. Right?”
In 2023, Tobias received two awards from the 2023 BIPOC Foundation Excellence Awards in the Top 10 Black Businesses and Top 10 Black Entrepreneurs category, showcasing the remarkable impact of Tommies Jerk in the business landscape.
Future Plans and Innovations:
Chef Tai unveils exciting plans for Tommies Jerk, including new product lines like jerk sauces and sodas. Collaborations with food delivery platforms and potential expansion to new locations demonstrate his ambition to reach wider audiences.
Legacy and Giving Back:
Chef Tai envisions leaving a lasting legacy through Tommies Jerk, with plans for a scholarship fund and continued philanthropic efforts. He believes in inspiring others not just to cook but to pursue their passions fearlessly as success is build by hard work and constant learning.
“That is the beauty of uncertainty that you don’t know. But one day, you will get something that hits. But that doesn’t mean you will stop there; you must go to the next place.”
Tobias Brown’s journey with Tommies Jerk exemplifies the beauty of uncertainty and the rewards of persistence. His commitment to community, passion for Caribbean cuisine, and resilience in the face of challenges showcase the spirit of entrepreneurship. As Chef Tai continues to shape the culinary landscape, his story inspires those embarking on their own entrepreneurial adventures.
“What I would suggest or say to anybody is just, you’re going to have to jump in the water. You’re just going to have to jump in. And navigate the thoughts of what happens if this goes wrong. But what if this goes right?”
We sincerely thank Tobias Brown for generously sharing his success story. His inspiring journey emphasizes the importance of supporting BIPOC businesses for a more inclusive and equitable society. Let us continue championing and uplifting entrepreneurs like Chef Tai. For the latest updates about Chef Tai’s journey follow @tommiesjerk on Instagram.