‘Food-trepreneur’ Kemara Dunkley ‘Xpress’ her culinary side with salads
You know you’re on to something when good food also makes you feel amazing. When life delivered the lowest blow of unemployment, Kemara Dunkley decided to follow in her mother’s culinary footsteps. Only, instead of specialising in seafood, she shifted her focus to salads.
Since opening Salad Xpress in September 2020, the ‘food-trepreneur’ explained that people have so far loved her salads, including the sweet chilli chicken, the grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, and the grilled salmon salads. They also can’t get enough of the added pasta and sweet potato mashed with cinnamon. Customers can also get added vegetables and fruits on the side. “The fact that they have the option of customising their salads is definitely a plus,” she explained.
Her passion for scrumptious dishes was ignited by her mother’s seafood restaurant operation. Fired up after seeing the sheer satisfaction on customers’ faces, Dunkley made her move to food. She got busy in the kitchen, preparing a variety of meals at the restaurant as well as at home, and the feedback was always positive. “I love the fact that you can experiment and be creative when preparing food. It’s like an art. Cooking food, for me, is therapeutic.”
Amid catastrophe, Dunkley found solace in her savoury, and sweet haven. And it was there that the idea came to her to make a career out of pleasing palates. “The pandemic motivated me to take the food business more seriously. I lost my job due to COVID-19 and needed something to do. I’ve always thought about opening a salad business, but I’d put that thought on the backburner. The opportunity then presented itself, and I told myself it’s time to quit procrastinating and do what I have to do.”
When asked why salads, her response was, “Who doesn’t enjoy a good salad?” Dispelling the myth that greens can’t fulfil a hunger craving, she decided to provide substantial additions while remaining healthy and budget-friendly. “I wanted to bring an exclusive salad bar to May Pen.” Since opening her business in Clarendon, Dunkley noted that the reception has been an interesting experience. As the newbie on the block, it wasn’t easy to get the word out there or to be taken seriously, but she has maintained consistency, knowing the value she is selling to consumers.
Dunkley acknowledges that there is a lot more room for growth, but is thus far grateful for the love and support. “It was important for me to open a salad business, because I wanted people to have a different view on salads. Each time I prepare a salad, I want the consumer to experience a myriad of flavours and see the creativity placed into preparing each dish,” she said.
After receiving several requests to do a pop-up kitchen in Kingston, she gave it some thought, but her good friend, Amelia, convinced her of her desires all along. “I had delivered a salad to her one day and her office was in awe at the presentation, the size, and the taste.” So she decided to give it a go and suffice it to say, it had been a success. “In the first month, I got overwhelming support across the city. The last pop-up was also very successful. Quite a few people missed the deadline to place orders, and so next month we’ll be back!”
She hopes to expand this pop-up initiative and open a physical location in Kingston in the future. Her advice to budding chefs is to follow your passions and trust that you will be supported. “Each business has its own crowd, and even though it might seem rocky and frustrating in the beginning, be persistent, and don’t give up. Always remember, consistency is key.”