Last month I was approached by a lovely vegan entrepreneur — Carolyn from Choose Life Foods — with the request to sample her Jamaican patties. The timing was fabulous since I had just been researching how to make delicious vegan patties myself, and was thrilled at the idea of sampling some for free. I hadn’t really had a good patty since B.V. (before veg) and was dying to get my hands on one. Growing up in NDG — a Montreal borough with a large Caribbean community — I was accustomed to picking up a beef patty at the corner store for less than $2. They were warm, lightly spiced and ultra flaky which meant you couldn’t possibly eat one without crumbs falling everywhere. Veg equivalents really never had that flaky goodness down until now.
Carolyn’s patties are rich and flaky just like the beef ones but they are even better in a way. They are healthier and more wholesome with two variations: Meatless Lovers and Coconut Kale Delight. I ate mine with some Caribbean hot sauce and it was perfect.
I was inspired by Carolyn and her budding business since I know it takes guts to go into the food industry with such a niche product. And, what a noble cause: Jamaican patties for all! I asked Carolyn to answer a couple questions that I had and she kindly obliged.
MTLVEG: Tell me yourself and Choose Life Foods?
CAROLYN: We provide organic/non GMO patties made with Organic and Fairtrade Spices. My friends will tell you that I love to cook and that I’m always feeding someone…lol Before I started the business, I worked as a Librarian.
MTLVEG: How did the company start? Why Jamaican patties?
CAROLYN: Like most children of Caribbean descent, my siblings and I grew up eating patties (Lunch, after school, snack time, etc.) but when I changed my diet, I could never find a vegetarian patty that came close to the patties I grew up eating. And I’m a picky eater… I decided I wasn’t going to live without a Jamaican Patty so I started experimenting in my kitchen with quality ingredients. When I thought I had a decent recipe, I shared with friends and they asked me: Why aren’t you selling these? And I said…Isn’t someone else? I did some research and I realized that no one was truly catering to vegans/vegetarians/health conscious. Honestly, I was a bit insulted by the veggie patties versions on the market and I thought, just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean your tastebuds evaporate…
MTLVEG: Why is it so hard to find vegan patties? What makes them non-vegan?
CAROLYN: Sigh well sadly, I discovered that the patty suppliers will put a vegetable filling but would not adapt the crust ingredients so that it’s suitable for vegans/vegetarians. An authentic Jamaican Patty contains beef suet to get that amazing flaky crust. Depending on the patty company, you’ll read “this product is not vegetarian” on the package. I’ve even stumbled upon a company that uses chicken seasoning to season the vegetables in the veggie patty.
MTLVEG: Are you vegan? if yes, why?
CAROLYN: I would say that I’m a vegetarian because I do eat honey. I am Seventh-day Adventist and we are encouraged to abstain from meat and embrace a plant- based diet. I believe that the original and perfect plan for humans was to watch over the animals as well as tend and care for the earth.
MTLVEG: What is it like to be a new entrepreneur in the food industry?
CAROLYN: Ha! It is very difficult. There is always a new challenge and being a new entrepreneur can be quite isolating. The summer, fall, and winter trying to perfect recipes, trying to figure out the inner workings of the food industry… Only a fellow food entrepreneur can truly understand the ups and downs of trying to get a business up and running. I’ve been working on this project for almost 2 years and I have a true admiration for any food company that is thriving. Even if a food company closes or decides to sell, I have more empathy now when such difficult decisions are made.
CAROLYN: Le Frigo Vert, Bio-Terre health food store, Fruiterie Melon Miel, Aux Vivres take out, À Votre Santé (health food store), Fleur Sauvage (health food store), Café Tuyo’s menu (Coconut Kale Delight) and the list is growing! You can check out my page to keep up: https://www.facebook.com/chooselifefoods