Yardies Caribbean Cuisine in Pickering cooks 2,000 pounds of jerk chicken a week
A Caribbean restaurant that exploded in popularity during the pandemic has now expanded to two locations in Pickering.
Yardies Caribbean Cuisine recently celebrated the opening of a second restaurant at 607 Kingston Rd., joining the original restaurant at 1660 Kingston Rd., which opened in 2019.
Owner Gerry Hoo has been in the industry for over 40 years; he previously owned restaurants in Scarborough as well as in Jamaica where he grew up.
Hoo decided to branch out in 2019, creating the Yardies menu to focus on authentic Caribbean dishes inspired by his family’s recipes.
Less than a year after the doors opened, the pandemic hit – but the Yardies thrived.
“It just exploded during COVID,” Hoo said, noting that he quickly shifted the restaurant’s focus to takeout. “We responded to the times and the needs. We closed off part of the dining room to make more space in the kitchen, we signed up with Uber and DoorDash.
The menu includes many classic dishes – jerk chicken and fried chicken with goat and oxtail curry as well as a selection of all-day breakfast dishes such as ackee and saltfish.
Sweets and drinks include Jamaican Rum Cake, Sweet Potato Pudding, Peanut Punch, Grace pop, JoJo’s Mix, and imported beer.
“I’ve been cooking since I was 14 in Jamaica,” Hoo said. “The recipes come mainly from my house, from my mother. I learned a lot from her.”
The new location has a larger kitchen, allowing large volumes of food to be prepared for restaurants as well as the growing catering side of the business.
On a typical Saturday, Yardies handles 300-600 people.
The demands at both restaurants are equally high – think 2,000 pounds of jerk chicken a week.
“To be honest, anyone can cook anything,” Hoo said.
In his mind, the mark of a good restaurant is to be able to systematically serve identical dishes to the customer each time he orders, regardless of the crowd.
“Consistency is an essential aspect of success,” Hoo said. “People know what they’re getting when they come here. They know it will be good.
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