BY KENYA MARCELLINE
The aroma of Caribbean flavours escaped from Naz’s dorm into the hallways of his residence at the University of New Brunswick. These lingering smells left many with the desire to taste the dishes that the Trinidad and Tobago native prepared in his room.
“People on the wing would say, man this smells good, can I get some… here’s two bucks, here’s five bucks, and I was like, I can get some money here.”
This is how Naz’s idea to open a business originated. He decided to pursue this plan as a school project for his MBA Entrepreneurship class at UNB.
“I told my professors that I wanted to start an ethnic restaurant in a white market. They thought it was a really bad idea because there’s no restaurant like this.”
He went along with his restaurant plan anyways and got a C+ for the project. Naz was then told he failed the course and lost his scholarship, which meant he couldn’t graduate.
“I almost got deported back to Trinidad because my visa was cancelled,” said Naz.
So he called his parents for financial help. They sold everything back home and moved to Canada to help their son achieve his far-fetched dream.
With his parent’s and his two sisters’ help, Naz was finally able to open Caribbean Flavas in 2004. The restaurant is located at 123 York Street in the city’s downtown.
They created a fusion of West Indian and Canadian culture. Naz adjusted the menu to include ingredients that he could easily get his hands on here in Canada. He also wanted to appeal to New Brunswickers.
“A big thing in Canada is mac and cheese and a big thing in the Caribbean is jerk chicken so I started saying ok well if Canadians like mac and cheese and Caribbean’s like jerk chicken why don’t I just put it together?”
He said that this fusion of foods has helped his family adjust to Canadian culture.
Caribbean Flavas is the only Caribbean/West Indian restaurant in New Brunswick.
“I’ve formed my own little world with respect to the colors of the restaurant, the music of the restaurant, the food of the restaurant… It’s all island. So I have my own vibe in here and when customers and guest come into the restaurant I introduce them to that culture.”
But Naz says he cannot stay in his own bubble. He stepped away from small circles of immigrants—his comfort zone—and branched out to other Canadians to learn more things about their culture.
Naz is also a part of the music industry. He began his music career back in Trinidad, and has evolved into DJ Nasty Naz. He’s interviewed and performed with artists such as Sean Kingston, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Timberland, Russel Simmons and Justin Beiber, to name a few. While on tour being a DJ and producing with these artists he was also their personal chef.
“In the Caribbean we cook a lot. A lot of things are centred around food, family and friends. That’s your big thing. You come over to my house and you bring all your family and we all hang out and we cook so that was a big thing instilled in us from young.”
He’s been cooking, or helping to cook, since he can remember.
“No Caribbean mother is going to allow you to just sit back and do nothing.”
Naz went from cooking meals in his university residence, to owning one of the best restaurants in New Brunswick. Caribbean Flavas has recently been nominated for the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards. The restaurant has brought diversity into the province, allowing New Brunswickers to get a taste of Caribbean life.