Photo courtesy of DinDin Meals / Instagram.
Food is a way in which many cultures channel their values and traditions, and put them on a plate for all to enjoy. Authentic food from one’s culture can make one feel like they’re at home and in touch with their cultural roots.
In 2021, Chances Walker, a new mother of two, wanted meal alternatives, particularly meals from her home country of Jamaica, but she couldn’t find any.
“I wanted meals that made me felt like I was home,” Walker told Slice of Culture.
Fortunately for Walker, this desire for authentic Jamaican food turned into her current business venture, DinDin Meals, where she makes authentic Jamaican cuisine in a commercial kitchen to be vacuum-sealed, frozen, microwaved and then eaten.
From a young age, Walker spent lots of her time in the kitchen. Her mother was often not home and would leave ingredients at home to prepare meals, so it was up to her to cook for her and her siblings, and she enjoyed every minute of it.
“That’s where I found I really enjoyed [cooking],” Walker said. “I enjoyed the look on people’s face when they tried my food and they were like ‘This is good!’”
In high school, Walker began learning about nutrition, which deepened her love for the culinary arts. This would lead her to study nutrition at the University of Technology in Jamaica, graduating in 2011. She would go on to work as a registered dietician in Jamaica, as well as complete her post-graduation degree in 2017 and would move to the United States two years later in 2019.
Walker, now a registered dietician and nutritionist, uses her love of science and cooking to make her meals as healthy as she can, with her preparing dishes that are low in both fat and salt. She uses natural herbs and spices that she brought to America from Jamaica, adding to the authenticity of her cooking.
Walker began packaging and distributing her authentic Jamaican food when she realized that her longing for the authentic taste of Jamaican food may go beyond just her. She realized that there must be other Jamaican people living in the area that long for the taste of home, and that there are people out there that would want to try authentic Jamaican food.
“My main goal is to provide an authentic [Jamaican] taste to those who are missing home like myself,” Walker said. “Jamaican food is just good and I want everyone to experience it.”
Walker cooks many traditional Jamaican dishes including oxtail and curried chicken, as well as desserts like rum cake, but she still wants to introduce more foods to the DinDin Meals lineup, including rice and peas and different soups. She also does catering for various events.
Walker has many different hopes for the future of DinDin Meals.
She’d like to have retailers stock her packaged meals to expand her brand into the tristate area and beyond, and would like to open a restaurant in the area, as there are currently no Jamaican restaurants in Bayonne. Eventually, she would like to make the restaurant a chain.
“I definitely want to expand this into my full-time venture,” Walker said. “I just want my brand to be a staple in homes.”
After cooking since she was a child and with a few years of DinDin Meals under her belt, Walker still finds joy in cooking authentic Jamaican food for herself and others.
“Cooking is therapy for me,” Walker said. “Jamaican food is so versatile. I love just preparing anything Jamaican, to be honest.”