For the Humber community wondering when Ackee Tree will reopen, there’s some good news.
The Humber College staple will return. However, those craving traditional Jamaican fare such as oxtail or jerk chicken will have to wait until it reopens in September, says owner Chris George.
George started Ackee Tree way back in 1996 and was inspired to open the business after visits to another Jamaican restaurant in Toronto near George Brown College. It was always busy and George thought it would be a great idea to open a Jamaican restaurant in a college to cater to the city’s diverse population of students.
He rang up a buddy to discuss the idea, who happened to be enrolled at Humber. From there, he contacted Humber and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ackee Tree closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, with a communal kitchen used by it and other Humber restaurants undergoing renovations, it has remained closed since. Those renovations should be completed soon but George won’t open up the restaurant for a month or two just to then close it when summer arrives and campus is mostly empty.
Hence the September date for reopening.
But George can’t go a day without being asked when Ackee Tree is coming back.
“The students and staff love it,” said George. “We have people who graduated 20 years ago still come back to us here at Humber for what they say is the best jerk chicken in the city. I hear from someone pretty much every single day asking about when we will reopen.”
However, those craving a Jamaican patty don’t have far to go as George opened Jamaican Spiked Patties right beside Ackee Tree in fall 2019. When Ackee Tree was open, there was a steady stream of people who wanted to purchase a patty. George decided to open Jamaican Spiked Patties to meet that demand.
“I realized they were such a big seller, so I wanted to try opening the new restaurant and see how it went,” said George.
The patties, which are hugely popular around the GTA, are filled with meat such as chicken or beef and can be bought on their own or served on coco bread and eaten like a sandwich. George has expanded the number of toppings and sauces beyond what Ackee Tree would offer.
They also have interesting fusions such as the Desi Fabulous – a patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers and Indian-inspired sauces including Mango Chutney on coco bread. The PBLT is a patty served with bacon, lettuce and tomato on coco bread. There’s also club sandwiches and jerk chicken sandwiches plus other items but the patties remain the draw.
In September 2021, Humber’s EDI Taskforce created a report on the current state of food service and provision on campus with respect to food security and the impact on belonging within the Humber community. The report, authored by Devon Fernandes of the Campus Culture Working Group, stated that “having access to familiar food and cuisine that is accessible in terms of dietary and religious restrictions is a way for students, faculty, and staff to gauge if they belong on campus. While everyone’s sense of belonging is experienced differently, food systems have the potential to create strong communities by bridging people and groups together by creating belonging and ties around the available food.”
The recommendations within the report served as a catalyst for the development of a holistic food strategy that will focus on the community’s experience with food with respect to belonging, affordability, availability, cultural relevance, sustainability, health, and nutrition. Consultation for the strategy is currently underway with a report and draft expected in the coming months.
Meanwhile, wander by the restaurant any day and you’re likely going to find a line of people waiting to order.
A veteran in the industry who has opened several restaurants over the years, George sees great potential for Jamaican Spiked Patties as a franchise. He has plans to open a second location, and their first outside Humber, in the next few months.
You can check out the Jamaican Spiked Patties menu by visiting their website at www.jamaicanspikedpatties.com.