When Ripton Hunter came to Rochester from Montego Bay, Jamaica in 2005, he knew he wanted to open a restaurant.
“Cooking was my first love. I always wanted a Jamaican place,” Hunter said.
Hunter owns Three Little Birds Jamaican Food at 651 Jefferson Ave., where he works with his mother Patsy, aunt and girlfriend. He is one of many first-generation immigrants who has brought a piece of his home to Rochester through the food he makes.
With an entire wall of shelves stocked with common sauces like Frank’s Red Hot as well as rare spices imported from New York City, Three Little Birds also doubles as a small spice shop for those who want to use the same flavors Hunter uses in his own cooking. .
Whether you’re tasting the oxtail or the classic Jamaican jerk chicken, the classic flavors of Jamaica are front and center with every bite.
Difficulty in operating the restaurant
Three Little Birds Jamaican Food is located on the corner of Columbia Ave. and Jefferson Ave., a notorious
“Everybody was like ‘Don’t go to Jefferson, it’s a bad area,'” Hunter said. “People are worried about the violence in Jefferson.
Despite the street’s checkered reputation, Hunter is happy with his store location.
“This is just a gift from God … It’s a nice block for me. Nobody comes to respect me or anything,” Hunter said. “It’s just word-of-mouth bad news.”
“Cooking was my first love. I always wanted a Jamaican place”
With inflation rates rising to their highest
“When I started four years ago, the oxtail was about $4.99 a pound, now it’s $8.99, $9.99, $10.99. The goat has gone from $9.99 a bag $19 a bag up,” Hunter said.
Also, the prices of items given out for free by restaurants like takeout containers are starting to increase in price, with Hunter paying an extra $54 for a case of takeout containers — $54 that would have been spent on buying ingredients or himself and his Support family.
For a business in a low income area, higher prices can spell a significant loss of customers and profits.
Josiah Dannert is one of the managers of Naan-Tastic, a Chipotle-style Indian restaurant on Marketplace Dr. to Henrietta. Before becoming the manager at several Naan-Tastic locations, Dannert ran other restaurant chains, such as Chipotle and the Distillery.
Despite all his time in food service, Dannert is wary of trusting the food industry.
“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a lifelong job for anyone. I don’t think anyone, unless they own [a restaurant], should stay in the food industry,” Dannert said. “I probably wouldn’t own a restaurant just because of how much I know it takes to run one.”
The number of restaurants across the country has risen to over a million despite hesitation from people in the industry, generating over
How diverse is Rochester’s food?
Dannert is not impressed by the amount of diversity in Rochester’s food options.
“There are way too many burgers and fries … I just feel like we have the same thing everywhere,” Dannert said.
Having different food options means not only being able to taste different combinations of flavors and spices, but also being able to connect with people from those cultures and backgrounds. Owning a Jamaican restaurant allowed Hunter to connect more with the Jamaican population in Rochester.
“I meet so many people from Jamaica. It brings people together. I didn’t know there were so many Jamaicans in Rochester,” Hunter said. “I meet more people, I meet good friends, good customers come.”
“I don’t think anyone, unless they own [a restaurant], should stay in the food industry”
Cultural diversity brings other benefits besides a variety of food. A
Another study from the Journal on Migration and Human Security also found that first-generation immigrants are too
Rochester is filled with restaurants that serve a wide variety of foods from different places and cultures. Zemeta Ethiopian Restaurant on South Clinton Ave. has a wide selection of traditional Ethiopian food for an affordable price.
Any place that serves an item called “spaghetti and goat” is a place to visit. Somali African cuisine traditionally serves sambusa (similar to an Indian samosa), as well as spaghetti paired with many different types of meat, including steak, chicken drumstick, lamb and goat.
Just Chik’n is inside Jefferson Plaza, just a minute or two drive from RIT and the Peruvian spices taste better than any fast food chicken available. Their classic combo meal, a whole rotisserie chicken, two sides, a pie and an alfajor cookie for $16 is a great choice after a long day of classes.
Billy’s Homestead, a personal recommendation from Hunter, is a breakfast spot on Empire Blvd. in Webster, NY. Owned by Billy, an immigrant from Greece, Billy’s Homestead serves every breakfast under the sun starting at 6:30 a.m. every morning.
Although it is difficult for many people to break their comfort food habits, trying foods from different cultures and being able to support first-generation immigrants can create connections that last a lifetime.