SHEDIAC – Melody Andalan Landry always loved cooking and has wanted to run her own food business since she graduated from university in the Philippines. That dream finally came true almost 15 years later – but in Canada, not her home country.
Landry and her business partner Vinson Mahawan launched their food truck, SARAP Filipino Canadian Delicious Cuisine on the Philippines’ independence day last month. Mahawan focuses on the business side of things while Landry cooks.
“I feel like I achieved something. I’m very proud of myself,” Landry said. “I cannot explain [how I feel] – even if I’m a foreigner in this country, I’m doing something that I love.”
Landry’s path to Canada was not straightforward. A young university graduate in the early 2000s, she wasn’t sure what she wanted for herself. A computer science student, she had studied something that her mother recommended to make her happy.
“I was looking for something that I want. I wanted to build my own restaurant but I didn’t have enough money,” she said.
She moved to Singapore to try living abroad, but that didn’t work out. So, she returned to the Philippines to open a mini canteen next to a small corner shop that her cousin owned.
“But it wasn’t really mine. It wasn’t my own place,” she said. “I said to myself I want to make money so I can build my dream, my passion.”
Before leaving her home country, Landry made sure she had the skills she may need in a new country. In addition to her university degree and some experience working for a bank, she also took caregiving and housekeeping courses.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen if you’re dreaming to go to another country. So I do everything that you can use in the other country,” she said.
Eventually, Landry came to Canada in 2012 to work in a fish and lobster processing plant in Cap-Pelé, a village about half an hour drive away from Moncton. It was “really hard work,” she said.
But there, she met her husband, Jason, with whom she has a son and built a home in Shediac, a 20-minute drive away from Cap-Pelé. After five years working at the plant, she decided it was time to do something for herself.
“I’ve found my own family here – my husband and my son. And now that my husband has a career, we have our own house, it’s about time for me to do my passion. I want to use my passion,” she said.
For [immigrants], this is not our first home, but we try our best to do what we can do so we can be proud of ourselves,” she said. “We go through a lot. We need to go through exams, we need to study how to talk French, we need to go step by step.”
Encouraged by support from her in-laws, extended family, friends and colleagues, Landry decided to work on her food business after the lobster season ended in January. She looked for a food truck all over Canada, calling and reaching out to people online. She didn’t have enough money to buy a new truck.
The new lobster season was approaching and she would have to return to work in May if things didn’t work out. A Christian, Landry prayed for a sign that she was doing the right thing.
She finally found a used truck nearby. The owner was leaving the next day, so he was willing to bargain. She scrambled to get legal advice from a lawyer in her husband’s extended family. The next morning, the truck was hers.
“I could not have done it by myself. It was my husband’s family, too, because they are supportive of what I do,” she said.
SARAP’s menu includes Adobo, a popular saucy Philippine dish that could include meats, seafood or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns. Customers can also find traditional “pancit” noodles, poutine, fried rice, spring rolls, french fries, fried chicken, burger, hot dogs and sweet style spaghetti.
The prices range from $6 for a poutine to $11.99 for a combo of Adobo, fried rice and spring rolls.
SARAP also provides catering services for weddings, birthdays and family gatherings.
“I decided on Filipino and Canadian [cuisine] because not all people try already Filipino food. When they go in line, they won’t need to go to another restaurant or food truck if they don’t feel like eating Filipino food or if they’re scared to try different kinds of food,” Landry said.
The food truck will serve the Greater Moncton, Shediac and surrounding areas. It’s often parked at the wharf in Grand-Barachois, a place by the water that Landry says she’s dreamt of.