Nova Scotia

Cinderella story sees Jamaican farm worker open popular food truck

An Annapolis Valley, N.S., man who first came to the province as a foreign farm worker has started his own business. 

Richard Gardner arrived as a foreign labourer 16 years ago and is now building a family business

Richard Gardner shows off some of the traditional Jamaican food his mother taught him to cook. (CBC)

An Annapolis Valley, N.S., man who first came to the province as a foreign farm worker has created a true Cinderella story by starting his own business. 

Richard Gardner applied to work in Canada in 2004, but had no say in where he would go. He didn't know anything about the Annapolis Valley.

He went to work for Charles Keddy Farms and Melvin Farms. 

"I used to do strawberries with Charles Keddy and cauliflower, cabbage, green onion and stuff like that with Stephen Melvin," Gardner said Friday. 

After a few seasons of work, he grew to love Nova Scotia.

Then he met Serilla and fell in love with her, too. They married.

This summer, she helped him open Cinderella's Caribbean Pot in New Minas.  Cinderella is his mother's name.

Richard Gardner's face graces the side of his new food truck. (CBC)

"Well, back in Jamaica, my mom, she's a cook back in the district, so that's where I learn all of this cooking from," he said. 

When CBC visited, customers formed a long line minutes after Gardner opened for the day. 

Sarah Fraser has been supporting the food truck since it opened. She and her two children ordered the jerk burger. 

"That's the second time; it's actually really, really good. Usually we do the jerk chicken sandwiches, but we switched it up," she said.    

'It's a beautiful, beautiful community'

The Gardners say local businesses and government safety inspectors have gone out of their way to help them succeed. 

"It's a beautiful, beautiful community. Customers gave a warm welcome. They're here every day. Some come four or five times a day," Richard said. 

COVID-19 has kept Cinderella Gardner from sampling the food, but she's helping from home and hoping to visit next year.

The menu changes, but usually features staples like jerk chicken. (CBC)

Serilla said things get pretty hot in the kitchen.

"When it reaches into the 40s, that's when you really start minding it. We've learned to kind of move around each other and who's in what space, so it's worked quite well.

"We still love each other at the end of the night," she said with a laugh. 

Gardner said the new career has been a big risk, but worth it.

"When the chance is there, you have to take it, right? You have to make a change in life sometimes. Take a chance and never give up. Just fight — determination, right?" 

He's currently based out front of West Side Charlies, a pool and billiards hall. The owners invited the Gardners to use part of the parking lot for the food truck and serve Red Stripe beer inside to continue the Jamaican experience for thirsty customers. 

Gardner plans to operate the food truck daily until the weather gets too bad in November, and then reopen in the spring. 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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