July 23, 2024
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Unique flavors roll onto campus with new food truck

Former extern brings a taste of the Caribbean to Binghamton

Executive Chef Cheya Brown returned to Binghamton University Dining Services after completing a Culinary Institute of America externship on campus in spring 2023. Executive Chef Cheya Brown returned to Binghamton University Dining Services after completing a Culinary Institute of America externship on campus in spring 2023.
Executive Chef Cheya Brown returned to Binghamton University Dining Services after completing a Culinary Institute of America externship on campus in spring 2023. Image Credit: Emilea Clark.

The Caribbean Connection food truck debuted this week at Binghamton University.

From day one, the menu included jerk chicken wings, rice and beans, cassava fries, plantain nachos and beef patties. House-made sauces, like the hibiscus and habanero hot sauce and a Cuban-inspired mojo dipping sauce can be paired with the menu items.

Chef Cheya Brown’s vision for the Caribbean Connection is to bring traditional dishes with her unique twist. She said students should expect a burst of flavor.

The debut of the food truck is a return to campus for Brown. She completed an externship with Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS) last spring. The externship included mentorship with BUDS culinary professionals coupled with the demands of serving thousands of people on campus. Students like Brown were given experience in all facets of kitchen operations.

“I feel like there’s just no better place that I could have started out,” Brown said, who secured employment with Sodexo, Binghamton University’s dining partner, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

As part of her externship, Brown led a pop-up Caribbean concept in a campus dining hall. “We served over 500 people that night,” she said.

Brown is viewing this as a professional opportunity to build on that initial pop-up concept and bring more traditional Caribbean dishes to Binghamton’s campus community.

“There’s a lot of labor and a lot of love that goes into it,” Brown said. Many Caribbean dishes require marination overnight. “Some of it takes days to get done.”

However, for Brown the long hours are worth it. She was first inspired by her grandmother to start cooking. “She’s the one who inspired me to explore and want to do more with food,” Brown said.

“I used to just watch her cook. She would sit me on the kitchen counter towards her and I would help here and there. I think she is my biggest influence when it comes to food in general,” Brown said. In her grandmother’s kitchen, Brown learned to infuse love, time and patience into every dish. “That’s truly reflected in Caribbean food,” she said.

Brown immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. She said along with providing Binghamton’s Caribbean student population with authentic flavors, her goal is to make Caribbean cuisine beloved by a wider campus audience. Brown wants to make the Caribbean Connection a home for all palates on campus, whether they are familiar with the dishes or not.

Just one bite of the jerk chicken wings will have students feeling closer to a tropical island than an early winter day in upstate New York, according to Brown.

Next steps for the Caribbean Connection include a rotating “Island Feature of the Week” that will highlight dishes from various Caribbean islands. This approach ensures a diverse and dynamic culinary experience for the campus community.

The food truck is open 11 a.m.­­–4 p.m. Monday–Friday and the location changes each week. Visit the BUDS website for the truck schedule.

Posted in: Campus News