Street food plays a huge role in a destination’s culinary tourism. It transcends age gaps. It unites people from all socio economic, gender and racial backgrounds. Street food curates a destination’s food culture by linking a specific place with a food experience. The local street food scene faces the toughest critics who want tasty, affordable and convenient meals fast. This niche demands not only creativity, consistency and a keen eye for detail but an ascertained grasp on earning respect from the people. Johann Benjamin is one such professional who decided to bring this same “ all or nothing” attitude to his brand, Chubby’s Famous Grill. Undeniably, food tourism takes a renewed approach in Trinidad’s street side culinary food scene. The tenets of sustainability, economic remuneration and stability are closer knit to underlying themes of community empowerment and holistic development.
Chubby’s Famous Grill offers authentic culinary tourism experiences to the hearty soul food eater. This Chef turns tables as a prominent DJ in local parties. Often performing his famous DJ sets late at night into early mornings, the entertainment industry leaves one famished. Johann affectionately known as Chubby would search for street food options during these post performance hours. Unfortunately, he was always confronted with a bold and daring redundancy in choices of street food options. He felt that he could truly make a difference in the street food tourism niche. Over time, Chubby began to consider his options. Johann felt that it was only fair to set up in East Trinidad where he grew up in a heavily fostered community upbringing era and strived to evolve into all-round built individual with resilient character and morale. After some research, proper planning, and a few culinary skill acquisitions Johann opened Chubby’s Famous Grill two years ago. Today, the grill that used to be a pop up food cart is now a full-fledged food truck.
Families, couples and after work crews frequent this street side food stop at its convenient location obliquely opposite Chicken Hut on the Southern Main Road in Curepe. Usually, Chubby’s Famous Grill is open from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. (or until sold out). He is there on Fridays, Saturdays and mostly the night before a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago. The service at Chubby’s Famous Grill is impeccable. The menu is always dynamic and expanding, the food tastes fresh and the quantities are more than enough for light weight foodies. Chubby buys most of his ingredients from local markets supporting the farmers in his area. He tries to bring as many homemade products to his menu. One of the reasons he decided to set up in the east (other than being from there) is the access and the availability to fresh ingredients for his business. Johann differentiated his product market and brought restaurant taste and quality to his brand, Chubby’s Famous Grill.
On his menu the prices start at TTD 10 and can go up to TTD 50. There are lots of items to choose from such as classic chilli dogs, classic beef burgers, sloppy joes, veggie burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches and grilled shrimp sandwiches. Then there are signature items like The Monster Burger (all beef patties topped with cheese and mouth-watering meat on top), The Boogie Man (2 beef patties, minced meat and cheese topped with jumbo sausage), The Double Stacker (2 beef patties drenched in barbecue sauce topped with cheese), The Cheef Burger (all beef burger patties topped with cheese and succulent grilled chicken). Recently, he added popcorn chicken, sweet chilli barbecue wings and macaroni salad to the menu. Secret signature sauces are quite the highlight including his specialty pepper sauce and honey mustard delight. Last but not least the sides featured on his menu are onion rings, pineapple, bacon, egg, salami, fries and cheese. Drinks are also made in house and range from all natural, refreshing, thirst quenching juices like grapefruit, orange, fruit punch, mauby and in December one can find the seasonal sensation, sorrel. Johann’s health and safety standards are always on par with quality control. He does his due diligence which comforts the foodie’s mind from any dubious concerns over street food and its imminent risks.
The nature of street food tourism in Trinidad is so profound that culture immersion is inevitable. Johann has learnt his mother’s cooking traditions and married that with contemporary food innovations and techniques. He passes this on to his customers. When they taste his food they immediately get the best of both worlds. It is also worth mentioning that street food honour commands an armoury of respect for the food quality and the customers, loyalty to providing the best experience for food adventurers and trust in food safety and sanitation. All of these attributes Johann possesses and more. After all he is beloved by his community for his many strides working with youth in sport and leadership. Often fortuitous to the food tourism niche is the ability of food entrepreneurs to empower and inspire others. Chubby’s Famous Grill brings persons from all walks of life together. His most loyal clients come from as far as Point Fortin. There is off road parking and al fresco dining with the scenic backdrop of the Northern mountain range amidst shady trees. Why is this place so incredible that people risk long insufferable drives to East Trinidad? (The commute is 6 hours; that’s 3 hours to Chubby’s Famous Grill in Curepe and 3 hours return trip to Point Fortin). There has to be some justification other than the facts that patrons can park, sit and enjoy street food dining on a cool breezy evening or late night before they journey home.
Whilst street side food tourism has many social enigmas its very essence is food science and technology. If we shall consult anyone on this matter it should be Nikola Tesla. He advises if one wants to know the secrets of the universe one should start thinking in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Chubby’s Famous Grill has become quite well-known because of just that; Johann’s love for the people, the passion for what he does and his ability to fill a need for delicious, high quality and diverse street food. He harnesses the most powerful and highest energy, frequency, vibration in the universe, love. He channels that into his intentions, his thoughts and his actions coupled with his street food execution and service delivery. Innately, energy transfers from him to the food and to the foodie. Cognizant or incognizant of his holistic role in Chubby’s Famous Grill, this street side chef reverberates more light and love in a world that desperately needs it. If there were ever a taste equivalent to describing love then this would be it. The foodies who line up every Friday and Saturday night to order any combo or side dish off Chubby’s Famous Grill menu can vouch for and identify with this feeling. The results of his hard work and tenacity oblige in his favour by guiding him to a purpose driven life where he brings love and happiness through one of his many passions, Chubby’s Famous Grill.
Albeit, food tourism conditions have never been riper in Trinidad and Tobago for development and promotion but the power is ultimately left in the hands of the citizens, the international tourists and the food tourists. When the masses rise to the occasion and own their buying power in this capitalist destination they work to mend leakage and focus repatriation on destination Trinidad and Tobago. The decision to buy from a local small business ensures that a strong, stable and sustainable economy is built. One is left to discern that the role of food tourism and by extension street side food tourism is not only an antidote for plodding the way forward for diversification in our economy and destination. It culminates in a far from obtuse rationale for closing generational gaps and cultivating a social fabric that is so hinged on making heirloom recipes and communal fortitude cool again. Chubby’s Famous Grill is more than just an established street food tourism initiative. It serves as a striking example of decisive action to cause an effect and create a positive change in the food tourism landscape and our destination.
Chubby’s Famous Grill can be reached at the following link and contact number below :