Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Carline and Tony Taloute

Nao’s Caribbean Flavor

Westbury, NY

“Through Ascendus we were able to get the truck completed, launch it, and hire more staff. This loan was a lifeline to our business and for us to continue to grow.”

Bringing Haitian Home Cooking to Long Island

 

Carline and Tony started Nao’s Caribbean flavor to bring Haitian culture and cuisine to their community. Carline’s passion for cooking started when she was living in Haiti, where she would always cook for large family gatherings and was known for her delicious flavors. When moving to the USA, she began working as a chef at a local hospital and volunteering as the lead cook at her church. “My wife always had a passion for cooking. She is a chef at heart.” Although Carline loved cooking, she didn’t love the work environment of being a chef. “I was pregnant and had to go to the ladies’ room, the manager was banging on the door telling me to come out, I wasn’t even in there for five minutes.” Carline quit and never looked back.

In 2016 Carline used all her savings to buy a food trailer, which became the only food trailer in New York state to serve Haitian food. “There was a need in the community – some people had never even tasted Haitian food before.” Their food trailer took off very quickly and is important to the local and Haitian community. “People would stand waiting in the rain and the snow for us to open, all because they missed that taste of home.”

 

FROM CABIN TO ESTATE

In 2019 they gained enough traction and used their savings to purchase a large food truck. This would allow them to be mobile and service more areas, attend events, and be more comfortable. “The trailer is hot. It can get to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s stationary, there is no head space, and there are no appliances, so we need to cook everything and store everything outside the trailer and transport it.”

Right when they started making renovations to their new truck, the pandemic hit and halted their process. “The truck sat there through 2020 – we needed to buy new parts, but the prices had skyrocketed, and we couldn’t afford them anymore.” In addition, Carline and Tony had signed contracts with several Universities to serve their students on campus, but without the truck they would be unable to meet their contract requirements. They reached out to Ascendus and were able to receive a $50,000 loan from the New York Forward Loan Fund. “Through Ascendus we were able to get the truck completed, launch it, and hire more staff. This loan was a lifeline to our business and for us to continue to grow.”

Carline and Tony were able expand, become mobile, service events, get more contract opportunities, and their prep work is now much easier. “The truck is life changing. It has its own oven, fridge, refrigerator. We can have heat and AC so we can operate in all weather conditions, there is head space, so we don’t need to duck down all day. We can go out to the city where there is more foot traffic. It is like going from a small cabin to an estate.”

 

A LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL IMPACT

For Carline and Tony, it is important to not only bring Haitian food but also Haitian culture to their community. “I wanted to portray the culture in a different light than the media – I wanted to show the positive sides.” They play Haitian music, there is a QR code customers can scan to learn about the history and culture of Haiti, and the art on the truck was created by independent Haitian artists.

Although Carline is passionate about cooking, she is even more passionate about serving her community. “My wife doesn’t like to see people go hungry. When there is food left over, she won’t throw it out. She drives around the city and finds people who need it.” To Carline, being able to give back to her community is the best part of her business. “I am happy with what I am doing. They are thankful, they love it and enjoy it. It is better than money to be able to help them.” In addition to giving back to their local community, Carline and Tony also give back to their community in Haiti through serving Haitian coffee. They employ students in Haiti to harvest the beans, and the funding goes back to those students by providing for their education.

In the future Carline and Tony hope to continue expanding, giving back to their communities both in New York and in Haiti, and to eventually have their daughters take over the business. “The name NAO comes from a combination of our three children, Naomi, Naila, and Nia. I started my business so that I could take care of my three daughters, and now they enjoy helping me in the business.”

Learn more about Carline and Tony here: https://www.eatnaos.com/

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