With their recent takeout food venture, three international students are transforming what it means to be an outsider.
Souvik Mukherjee from India, along with Mohammad Faisal Bin Alam and Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, both from Bangladesh, launched The Outsiders in November 2021.
"In a lot of ways, we are outsiders," says Souvik, who graduated from Lakehead with an MSc in Computer Science in 2021. "We're from outside Canada, and we're a ghost kitchen."
But in many other ways they've felt a strong sense of community in both the university and the city.
"I felt welcome right from the first day," Souvik says. "I've participated in so many community programs and cultural activities and been invited to people's homes for holiday dinners."
"With our business and contributions to this community, we're hoping to show people that nobody really is an outsider."
An Opportune Meeting
When Souvik completed a Bachelor of Computer Science in India and was looking to continue his studies, he discovered that Lakehead's data science program aligned with his interests. After finishing high school, Abu and Mohammad also chose to study at Lakehead. Mohammad is enrolled in Lakehead's Honours Bachelor of Commerce program while Abu has since switched to business marketing at Confederation College.
After meeting, the three students realized they shared a common mother language, Bangla, and much more, and they became friends. In 2020, they formed the Bengali Club of Thunder Bay and hosted the city's first International Mother Language Day celebration at the Thunder Bay Public Library.
The Launch of a Ghost Kitchen
A recent phenomenon, a ghost kitchen refers to using an established restaurant's kitchen, when that restaurant isn't operating, to provide food to customers for pick up or delivery only.
Inspired by the many young entrepreneurs they'd met, the trio decided to give it a try.
"At the start of the pandemic, ordering take-out was getting more and more popular," says Abu. "A lot of restaurants were closing earlier, so people didn't have many options if they wanted food late at night. We saw the need."
They work out of Apple Chipotle's BBQ Grillhouse on Thunder Bay's north side.
"The chefs, Jason MacKenzie and Sean Leveille, have been very generous, not just renting us their kitchen but also with menu ideas and other suggestions," Souvik says.
A Taste of Home, Both Old and New
The Outsiders blend flavours from the Thunder Bay area, places as far away as California and Mexico, and add a little taste of home. The result is their own take on American fusion cuisine like their Cowboy Quesadilla and the popular Juicy Lucy Cheeseburger. They try to support local producers like Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, George's Market, June and Jo Spice Co, Shumka Dust, and Narrow Gate Foods who created a signature Kombucha drink for The Outsiders.
"People who use local products are here for the customers and the community first, not the business," says Souvik. "And if you love your customers, they will love you."
It's no wonder that their motto is "finger-licking food for the midnight mood."
You can find The Outsiders on Facebook, Skip the Dishes, and Uber Eats.