Clinton Haughton moved from Jamaica to Atlanta, Georgia, nearly two decades ago and came to New Orleans in 2008. After years of cooking on cruise ships, Haughton started to sell jerk chicken on the street before launching his food truck, Johnny's Jamaican Grill, in 2013. Now, Haughton has nabbed one of six spots at the Central City outdoor food court, Roux Carre (www.rouxcarre.com), which is slated to open in mid-October. An initiative by the Good Work Network, the program aims to help entrepreneurial food service workers start businesses while offering the neighborhood affordable food options. Haughton spoke with Gambit about his project.
How does your setup at Roux Carre work?
Houghton: With the food truck, I almost only work at night. But at the food court, it's going to be more of a daytime thing, for the lunch crowds and also some dinner. So for people who don't do the nightlife thing, it will be a nice way for them to try it out.
It's like a big, outdoor food court. The vendors will all share one big kitchen. There will be music; it's outside and there will be a lot of international food. The first year, (the vendors) pay a small percentage of our sales to the project.
I think it's going to be a blast. Why not try something new? I've traveled a lot in the United States, but I've never seen a food court like that: six different chefs, six different types of food, there's no reason to go anywhere else — you can stay right there and try everything.
It's going to be good for the city. It's going to be good for the area, and it will bring jobs for the people who live there. It goes all the way around. It's good for us, it's good for the system, and it's good for the people too.
Are you sticking with Jamaican food?
H: For now, yes. Jamaican food is a lot like New Orleans food. New Orleans is a spicy place, let's put it that way. We use a Jamaican jerk sauce, which has fresh thyme, fresh herbs and lots of spices. Jerk chicken is spicy and certainly has a different flavor, but people love it; they say (mine) is one of the best they've had so far.
Jerk chicken will be the No. 1 dish I sell. I'll also have rice and peas, which you call red beans and rice, but we cook it a little differently. We use coconut milk, thyme, onions, cayenne and then just cook it down, so it tastes right. We'll have fried plantains, curried chicken and rice, brown stew chicken, jerk fish ... and whole red snapper and jerk shrimp. I'll also have some greens, a type of salad and macaroni and cheese.
What's next for you?
H: I see (Roux Carre) as a stepping stone, a place for someone to start out. Then, after a year or two, you pass the torch to someone else. You spread the wealth.
I want to get established; I want to make life better for me and for everybody. Right now I have a guy who I'm training to be the second in command over there when I'm not around, so I will probably still run the truck at night.
Right now I'm refurbishing the truck, putting in a new stove and a new fridge. Later on in life I'm thinking about opening my own restaurant — I'm thinking like three years from now. That's my plan.