Growing up surrounded by the delectable aromas, tastes and bustlingly homey atmosphere of his family’s kitchen in Jamaica, Dave White always loved food, and wanted to share that sense of family he’s always enjoyed with the rest of his community.
Bringing together his homespun, authentic and breathtakingly tasty Caribbean fare, immersed in an atmosphere that is welcoming and family-oriented, White has made Big Momma’s Soul Food into a true culinary destination that appeals not only to the many seasonal workers who live and work in the Bradford West Gwillimbury region each year, but for local residents seeking flavourful value for their dollar.
“When you come here, it’s like you are part of my family. And with my regulars, I know your order before you come through the door. I really want to make you feel like you’re at home when you eat at Big Momma’s. I want it to feel like your grandmother cooked your meal. And I keep my food inexpensive because I want my customers to keep coming back and be able to enjoy good food. I keep my overhead down, so it doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg,” he said, adding that the business is run entirely by he and his wife Sophia. The couple have five kids who are also part of the process.
“I have always loved to cook and try out different things. There was always food around the house when I was growing up – the kitchen was a busy place and kind of a focus for the whole family, so cooking for people is just a normal family thing for me. I call my kids my guinea pigs because I am always trying stuff out on them.”
Big Momma’s has been under White’s ownership since he took over the existing restaurant 15 years ago. At the time, it was located in a much smaller and out-of-the-way locale. A number of years ago, it was moved to its own storefront location just down from the Village Inn at 19 Simcoe Road. White had worked in logistics in a factory in Toronto for many years before moving to Bradford, where his mother recently moved, to take over Big Momma’s.
“I knew there were a lot of people migrating to Bradford from Toronto like me and I knew they needed some real Caribbean food in their lives. I always wanted to own my own business, and I always knew it would be a restaurant of some kind. I had learned how to cook and learned specific recipes from the people around me, and they encouraged me to buy the restaurant and share these recipes with others,” he said.
Big Momma’s doesn’t overwhelm diners with a vast array of menu selections. White concentrates on a few key dishes, which are created to perfection. These include oxtail, jerk chicken and pork, goat, curry and roti chicken.
Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted all restaurants, White said the biggest challenge is to keep bringing in new diners from the broader BWG community. He knows, once the migrant workers are allowed to return, he will attract lots of their business, but wants to keep attracting both new and long-time permanent residents.
To do this, he uses social media and both virtual word of mouth (reviews on various online platforms) and old-fashioned person to person word of mouth to promote the business.
“The people of Bradford have supported me from day one and I see more and more new faces coming in. I also really appreciate the support I have been getting from the Town [BWG Economic Development],” he said.
For more information, visit http://www.bigmommas.ca, or call 905-778-8118.