Text by Sara Grace C. Fojas
Portrait by Mark Balmores
Barbecue and Java rice with atchara
FOOD TRUCK TWIST: Burger steak
FOOD TRUCK TWIST: Sisig taco
FOOD TRUCK TWIST: and Boracay burger
FOOD TRUCK TWIST: Jaytee Balmores, owner of JeepNiJaytee
PINOY FOOD IN CANADA: Fresh spring roll
PINOY FOOD IN CANADA: Crispy kare kare
PINOY FOOD IN CANADA: and bagnet
It was all about being in the right time and the right place for Jamie “Jaytee” Balmores, who was seen by a producer of Canada’s Global TVwillingly serving taho to a person with disability, and assisting him while eating. Immediately, he was invited to one of their shows for the following day. It was only the second day of his business, and already he was creating milestones for it.
Jaytee, a Filipino nurse, is the owner of Jeep ni JayTee, the first Filipino food truck in Canada that serves Filipino food with a North American twist.
“Jeep ni JayTee is a Filipino food truck that specializes in Filipino street food mixed with a North American touch. Our dishes are out of the ordinary, such as our best seller, sisig putin or crispy fries with cheese curds, gravy, and sometimes chives or any other toppings you’d like to put. Sometimes I also put chicharon on it and green onions. Another best seller is the bistek shawarma where, instead of the original beef on the shawarma, I use the bistek Tagalog,” says JayTee, who finished Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Santo Tomas.
Located at Edmonton, Canada, Jeep ni JayTee was inspired by the Filipino food trucks JayTee saw when he went to Los Angeles. It uses fresh and authentic Filipino ingredients.
“After trying out those food trucks, I imagined myself having my own food truck and serving food to people. So I bought myself a one-dollar notebook and started jotting down all my ideas from the color of my truck to the food I will serve. Six months later, in May 2015, I was able to open the business,” he says.
The food truck was immediately a hit with the first 50 people buying everything he was selling on his first day. The second day was the day he got noticed by the Global TV producer, which not only made his truck popular, but also opened doors for him for TV shows and endorsements. His truck was recognized as the Best Food Truck in 2016 and 2017 by Vue Weeklymagazine while the Filipino Canadian Magazine acclaimed his food truck as the Most Popular Food Truck in 2016 and 2017.
He was also awarded as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016 by the Filipino Champions of Canada, and also hailed as one of the Filipino Champions of Canada in 2016.
Initially, JayTee’s purpose to go to Canada was to work as a nurse and help his family here in the Philippines. But after a fire consumed their house in Sampaloc, Manila, which left his family with nothing, he realized that he needed to work more hours and increase his income, which gave birth to his food truck idea.
“I’m fortunate enough to grow up in a kitchen with high quality Filipino food. My mom would always serve us delicious dishes, even if it’s just a simple meal. When I was about to leave for Canada, I asked my mom to teach me how to cook so that I can do it on my own when I’m there. With lots of practice, I’m now able to cook my own dishes,” shares the Sanchez-Mira, Cagayan native.
Open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, his truck can be found in Collingwood, Millwood, Sherwood, or Hudson Park. People would line up for hours just to get a taste of his dishes.
“The Canadians love my pancit, spring rolls, adobo, and the sisig putin. I also serve crispy kare kare, bopis perogis, burger steak with rice, beef pares, sisig taco, taho, pan de sal with embutido, pork isaw, kwek kwek, barbecue, buko pandan, halo halo, and ice scramble. All of my dishes are freshly cooked and with high quality. If I see something wrong with the food, I immediately bring it back to the kitchen. I would rather lose a few dollars than lose you as a customer,” says JayTee.
Though very successful now in his endeavor, one cannot deny that JayTee has a good heart.
He was one of the first persons who responded when the town of Fort McMurray was burned in 2016 due to a wildfire. He requested his customers that instead of the usual cash, he would give them his food in exchange for toiletries, used clothing, and baby needs. His drive was able to fill a 10-wheeler truck.
Now, he dreams of expanding his truck but maintaining its high food quality, not only in Canada but also in the Philippines.
“When opening a business, it’s not enough that you do what you want to do and follow your dreams. You have to do your research, know your battles, and test the waters. You are betting your time, money, and effort, that’s why you have to put a lot of thinking into it and only if you are already sure of everything that you proceed and go for it,” he says.