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Hidden Gems: Meet Chef Andre and Dafney Tales-Lafortune of Bon Fritay Haitian Food Truck

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chef Andre and Dafney Tales-Lafortune.

Hi Chef Andre & Dafney, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I (Dafney) studied Journalism in undergrad and worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. I covered a wide variety of stories from fluff pieces like cats getting caught in car engines to hard news involving serious crimes and political scandals. Over the course of my journalism career, I interviewed an array of subjects from your average community worker to celebrities including Jon Bon Jovi and Danny Glover. Over time, I grew more stressed with keeping up with the competition and got burnt out.

I switched gears and went into constituency work in state government. There, instead of writing stories about people in Philadelphia’s rough-and-tumble neighborhoods, I helped the residents in those economically-disenfranchised communities find resolution to their problems. The state representative for whom I worked did not seek re-election months later and I packed up and moved to Charlotte. After a brief stint there, I returned home to Massachusetts, where I ended up back in the newsroom.

I loved covering my hometown – human interest stories about a young boy collecting pennies to fund his anti-homelessness campaign to a severe burn victim making a miraculous recovery and living the life of a normal teen. But I knew my stint there would be short-lived. I relocated to Raleigh after Andre and I got married.

Since we met, we’d always talked about running our own business. After my move, it didn’t happen right away. Andre worked in the Central Processing department at several hospitals in the area. From the time he settled in North Carolina from Port-au-Prince, Haiti more than 20 years ago, he drove school buses and detailed cars before completing a degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2018.

Meanwhile, I worked temp jobs before landing at an airline for a few years. While we both worked, we began to cater events.

As the popularity of our food grew, we knew the time was right to take the plunge.

We decided to name our food truck “Bon Fritay,” which translates to “good fried food”, which is what we serve, street food from the island of Haiti. Our mobile restaurant is a culmination of years of hard work and to say that we are proud to operate the first Haitian mobile restaurant in the Triangle is an understatement!

We are passionate about serving Haitian food and proud to showcase our culture and cuisine to this community. It’s been almost a mission for us – by representing our island nation and the richness it has to offer, we are somehow repairing the image that has been disseminated about Haiti for decades.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
We officially opened for business on March 5, just before the quarantine lockdown. So, we have not known food truck life – nor running a business – before the global pandemic. From the beginning, we’ve had to navigate and pivot to stay ahead of this precarious situation.

We believe we made the best of the situation we all found ourselves in.

One of those ways was a campaign that we launched called “Adopt a Doc,” which solicited donations from our followers to sponsor meals that we would make and deliver to nursing staff at hospitals in the area. It was our way to contribute to hospital workers during the start of the pandemic. It also garnered news coverage, which helped get the word out about our food truck.

We’ve been impressed with Bon Fritay Haitian Food Truck, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As the first Haitian food truck in Central North Carolina, we are automatically set apart from other businesses like ours.

Haitian cuisine, and its rich and savory flavor profile, is unique. It was important for us to bring the essence of Haiti’s street food scene to the state and offer the people an authentic Haitian street food experience. For both Andre and I, some of our fondest memories of our time in Haiti was stopping at a street food vendor and hearing the sizzle of the oil as they dipped in the griot (fried pork) and banann peze (greens plantains) while Haitian music “Konpa” blared from a radio nearby. The competing sounds of frenzied traffic was almost deafening.

And while we honor our traditional cuisine, we have taken pride in putting a spin on some of our classic dishes. We are proud to be the home of the Haitian Pulled Pork and Pulled Chicken sandwiches, a deviation of our griot and poule nan sos (chicken in sauce).

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
The Covid-19 crisis has taught us – or, rather, reminded us – how fragile life can be. We’ve learned to be grateful for every moment that we get to experience and to embrace the people who are most important.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All images are by Lafortune Images, our personal photography venture

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