In Melbourne, Australia's competitive food capital, the best culinary entrepreneurs remain. Among them is 42-year-old Roderick Grant. The Jamaican-born expat is the Boss Man Food Group owner, which includes his famous food truck brand, Real Jerk. He offers authentic Jamaican flavours and has earned himself the reputation of being the leader of Caribbean cuisine in his Aussie hometown.
A variety of menu items are offered to customers in different settings. One of two Real Jerk food truck stands permanently in Springvale, a suburb in Melbourne, whilst The Jerk Centre, a mobile food truck, can be found at markets and festivals where there's plenty of jammin' tunes and island spirit. Since late May 2021, patrons can savour the same authentic flavours at a pub restaurant in South Melbourne.
When he landed in the garden city in the late 1980s, Grant was 15 years old. “We were the only black people in the suburb,” he recalls. At 19, he was the owner of his first Caribbean restaurant, Yeah Maan Rastaurant. Famed for serving celebrity patrons like the Brian Lara-led West Indies cricket team, the restaurant grew a reputation for serving authentic Jamaican flavours. Fast-forward to 2016 and a few pivots along the way, Grant became a steady referral note for strong, bold Caribbean flavours in the culinary scene.
“Our brand's jerk chicken marinade has 30 different ingredients in them. The recipe is steeped in tradition,” Grant shares. At The Jerk Centre, customers experience traditional techniques used to make the dish. A mixture of fire and spice sets this dish apart from other Jamaican plates. Malle root, the woody root of the Malle tree, is used to start the fire. Pimento and bay leaves are then added to the flames. These flavours when released infuse themselves into the heavily marinated chicken, and the result is an explosion of Jamaican delight.
Another favourite menu item is “The Big Load.”
It's a combination of grilled jerk chicken, rice and peas and coconut coleslaw that puts the tropics on a plate. The balance of flavours between the spicy chicken and the mild sweetness from coconut cream is refreshing. Another big winner on the food truck menu is the Jerk Twice chicken dish. “Because of the way we grill our chicken, the flesh is moist. The chicken is already jerked. We developed a flour blend recipe that we use to coat the chicken, and then it's fried.” When asked if he could give KFC a run for its money, Grant's response was an emphatic yes!
Grant's new restaurant, Khalu, is located inside a large pub in South Melbourne. It is a combination of his children's names, Khaleesi and Luther. The menu features plantain, cassava chips, jerk chicken alongside chicken parmigiana. “It's the same authentic flavours we're known for alongside new pub-style dishes.”
Melbourne has been the culinary arts centre of Australia for a while. With Roderick Grant, the city can boast that it has the spicy end of town well showcased.
To experience this fiesta of flavours, please visit Boss Man Food Group website at www.bossmanfood.com.au.
The Real Jerk Food Truck is located at:
Factory 1, 44-50 Westall Rd, Springvale VIC 3171
Khalu Restaurant is located at:
256 Moray Street South Melbourne
— Bridgett Leslie is an internal auditor by day and media correspondent by night. She is passionate about Caribbean flavours and the community around this culinary cuisine. She is currently finishing her undergraduate studies in Gastronomy at Le Cordon Bleu.