After attending her graduation this spring from the Sprott business program at Carleton University, Sifa Kalinda was looking for a fresh challenge and a simpler lifestyle. She found both by creating her food cart and catering business, Plátanos. While there was a certain level of inspiration to be discovered studying business theory in the classroom, Sifa felt that the environment she inhabited during university was at times, “unhealthily competitive.” So, while her colleagues were only dreaming of their future companies, Sifa was actually planning her own, and upon graduation she decided to take her dream for a test drive.
One of her first catering events was for the Great Glebe Garage Sale, an annual event held in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood during the month of May. “On that day, [It] was all fun. There were so many people! It felt like another country,” Sifa recalled. Although there were a few minor hiccups throughout the day including a slight miscalculation of the number of plantains she would need to feed the hungry shoppers, Sifa ended up feeling on top of the world. She dealt with her ‘bite-sized crisis’ rather efficiently and has since learned that it’s better to overestimate a crowd than underestimate one. Sifa takes everything in stride, every new event or situation is a learning experience from which she can grow.
However, Plátanos isn’t just helping Sifa to grow and realize her goal of running her own business – it’s also good for its customers. Eating plantains is a healthier, and tastier option (at least in my opinion after having tried the plantain nachos) than purchasing potato chips from your local convenience store. Those bags of chips are made with ingredients you cannot even pronounce. Although there will be sweet options at Plátanos, “I’m working to perfect a sweet plantain recipe with cinnamon,” confided Sifa. The main goal of the company is to promote healthy eating. “I love eating well,” she declared, “I have friends that are vegetarian and eat a gluten-free diet. These are amongst many things I consider when designing a menu for Plátanos”.
When Sifa was eight or nine years old, she started cooking and hasn’t stopped since; it is truly a passion in her life to feed other people good food. As the oldest of four children, she believes that, “feeding people [creates] connections…food connects people.”
As Plátanos slowly but surely makes a name for itself in the Ottawa food scene, Sifa is looking forward to eventually gaining a food truck license and at some point in the future, opening her own restaurant. However, at the moment she is in love with the food cart scene. Even though she stated that she hardly ever stops working, “I am usually at least checking Twitter and email,” she enjoys the constant cooking and preparation required to keep her business afloat. The consistent support from other food carts and truck owners has also helped her stay motivated.
“You realize a lot [about others] when you’re in need,” she said, as she spoke about her friends who have driven her to events when she had no transportation. Many of those same friends are the volunteers she relies upon to assist her when working larger events. Sifa also noted that several community members have stepped in to help her navigate the entrepreneurial sphere in Ottawa. She is touched by the outpouring of encouragement she has received throughout the past few months but really, who wouldn’t want to encourage a venture like Plátanos? Sifa described it as a labour of, “love and originality for the community,” and she is correct on all counts. Plátanos is the place to eat and if you don’t believe me, you will after you take your first bite of Sifa’s delicious plantains.