Even if you’ve never lived on a farm, you know who is in charge of the morning wake-up call.
Yup, our noble friend the Rooster. Did you know however, that his call is a little different depending on which country you are in? In Portugal they cry ‘Cocorococo’, in Iceland they sound like ‘Gaggalagaggalagó’, in Denmark it’s ‘Kyleliky’, and in Poland the call ‘Kukurykyu’ is heard each morning. This, along with the call of their grandmother is what would wake up young Paulina and Karolina. “The rooster is hungry, we need to get up and feed him!”. Their mom, Janina Tokarski shared that in Poland the Rooster is a symbol of wisdom and good luck. He is the one in legends who knows how to divide the food and ensure that everyone gets their fair share. So, years later when deciding what to call their new business, the vote was unanimous and The Hungry Rooster was born!
Although the business grew out of a professional kitchen on Salt Spring island over two years ago, the main kitchen has now relocated to Nanaimo. Mom, Janina, runs the kitchen and restaurant in Nanaimo while her daughter Paulina operates the very popular food truck in Victoria. Her other daughter Karolina is involved through adding her designer’s touch to the logo and funky design of Hungry Rooster. Janina loved Salt Spring Island life and misses her old location but the demand of the food truck and several wholesale vendors grew so quickly, they needed to move to a place that allowed for easier distribution. What hasn’t changed is their belief that everything needs to come from fresh, local and where possible, organic sources. No wonder they are so busy!
Interviewing the firecracker Janina was no easy task, after booking time to talk with her, her staff Shawn and Chris literally had to force her to sit down to chat, promising they would get the work done. Her proud character, humble persona and amazing work ethic can all be credited to her mom. She claims her wonderful mother was her most powerful inspiration. Powerful photos of her mother and relatives gathered in the kitchen sharing food preparation adorn her restaurant walls, so although she has since passed, her mother’s essence can certainly be felt. ‘She made us everything from scratch, breakfast, lunch and supper’. Along with learning all of her mother’s talents, Jalina spent over four years earning her Professional Cook’s Diploma in Poland. She has individually trained each of her staff to follow the families secret perogy recipe, and continues to grow the business with her non-stop energy.
Why perogies? For Janina, the perogy is the perfect food. During hard times in Poland, families could make and fill them with whatever was on hand, with very little expense. They represent family and the sharing of a meal together. Although Janina loves all the varieties, she claims fruit filled are her particular favourite. I was fortunate enough to sample a few morsels after our interview. The regular cheese and potato flavour brought me right back to my Ukrainian Baba’s table. Comfort food at it’s very finest, not too chewy, just the right amount of filling…perfect. I was pleasantly surprised with their Mexican inspired platter too. I had never thought of mixing a perogy with salsa and cilantro, but along with the aged cheddar, cabbage slaw and sour cream…let me say…it just works! Apparently it’s a favourite with the food truck crowd in Victoria, I can
see taste why!
The little lunch spot on Bowen has a crew of regulars and they also sell five varieties of their freshly made perogies to take home with you. There is also a popular selection of gluten free products. They have worked hard to develop their market and have their delicious samplings available all over BC and even stores in Edmonton and Calgary. If you want to check them out, have a look, hopefully there is store close to you!
The retail store is open every day but Sunday, so you can see that Janina is a busy lady, but when she isn’t working she shared that she loves to take advantage of everything Nanaimo has to offer. An avid outdoors enthusiast, she can be found busy with nearly every outdoor activity. She is happiest “in the greens” of nature and it her love of nature that she carries with her into the kitchen. Proudly serving fresh food, created with careful skills that were inspired by a mother’s love. If you haven’t stopped in yet, put it on your list of places to try, and see if you can count how many Roosters are in there!
Hours: Mon-Wed: 10am – 6pm, Thu-Fri: 10am – 7pm, Sat: 10am – 5pm, Sun: Closed
Address: #203-1925 Bowen Road, Nanaimo, BC
The store & the food truck are both on Facebook, follow away!
“If you’re going to do something tonight that you’ll be sorry for tomorrow morning, sleep late.” ~ Henny Youngman