Jerk chicken and brisket on the menu as new venture brings Caribbean flavours to Washington

A former firefighter who turned his hand to cooking over lockdown has opened a new venture that’s bringing a melting pot of Caribbean flavours to Washington.

Saturday, 25th June 2022, 4:55 am

Ryan McVay had great success with his Calabash Tree business over lockdown when he brought a taste of Trinidad & Tobago to people’s doorsteps.

Now, the Washington businessman has transformed a former Chinese takeaway in Swan Industrial Estate in Columbia to open Cove Caribbean.

Whilst sister business The Calabash Tree, named after a tree that’s indigenous to the West Indies, still operates for events and private dining with authentic Trinidadian dishes, Cove Caribbean offers a menu of wider Caribbean foods, such as loaded roti, burger topped with jerk brisket, macaroni pie and dutty, loaded fries as well as vegan options such as curried channa aloo and red lentil coconut dhal.

Cove Caribbean in Columbia, Washington

You can wash it down with a range of Caribbean drinks including Red Stripe, Shandy Carib, Calypso and Old Jamaica Ginger Beer.

Ryan’s mum’s family hail from Trinidad & Tobago and he grew up with his gran and great aunt’s curry recipes, which he incorporates into his own dishes.

His business idea was born back in 2015 when he visited a street food event at Newcastle’s Boiler Shop and noticed that no one was flying the flag for Caribbean food.

He started making dishes himself and over the next few years juggled cooking with firefighting shifts at Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue service.

Jerk chicken burger, washed down with a Jamaican beer

In November he left the fire service after 14 years and can now fully throw himself into hospitality.

Acquiring the new premises in Washington has been a big step forward, giving him a large food prep space as well as a takeaway counter.

For the moment, Cove Caribbean operates for lunch takeouts from Wednesday to Friday from 11.30am to 2pm, as well as deliveries on Uber Eats.

Ryan said: “Initially, it was only supposed to be a prep kitchen, but people on the estate could smell the food and started asking about takeout. At the minute I’m just doing lunches, but I’ll look to increase that depending on demand. I’m also looking to recruit staff.

Cove Caribbean new takeaway in Washington. Owner chef Ryan McVay.

“This is a broader menu than I do at The Calabash Tree with things like burgers and loaded fries, all with a Caribbean twist.”

Speaking about his change in career, Ryan said: “I knew I was coming out of the fire service and needed to make a living, but I never expected this to take off in the way that it has. I love it, I love the variety and people’s reaction to the food.

"I didn’t even know there was that many people from Trinidad in the area until I started Calabash Tree and they all started ordering from me. My mum is really proud too, that it’s the food of her heritage.”

Ryan imports his spices from the Caribbean and won’t use anything else in his dishes to make sure they’re as authentic as possible.

Cove Caribbean new takeaway in Washington.

“Growing up, my gran and great aunt were always making home-cooked Trinidadian food and it was something that always stuck with me,” he said. “My dad is a proper chef and he always jokes, because I never weigh my ingredients, I cook curry by smell. I know it’s right when it smells like my great aunt’s kitchen.”

You can order online at www.thecalabashtree.com

Cove Caribbean new takeaway in Washington. Owner chef Ryan McVay.
Dutty Jerk Burger - quarter pounder with cheese on lettuce, coasted in house dressing and topped with jerk brisket, chilli mayo and hot sauce - £6.50
Jerk chicken with rice and slaw
jerk chicken roti - £8
Cove Caribbean new takeaway in Washington.