Tavel Bristol-Joseph Will Honor His Homeland at New Caribbean Eatery Canje
The co-owner and executive pastry chef at Emmer & Rye is launching a deeply personal new concept
By Aaron Parsley
Still, he’s making time to lead the opening of another restaurant, Canje, on East Sixth Street in Austin this fall. And this time, it’s very personal.
Canje will serve traditional-yet-modern Caribbean food inspired by Bristol-Joseph’s upbringing in Georgetown, Guyana, and the influences of other islands in the region.
“Growing up, my grandparents had seven kids and two grandkids in a two-bedroom house,” Bristol-Joseph told Tribeza in 2019. “Food was scarce at times, so when you had it, you cherished it. I became a chef so that I could give, because I understand what it’s like to be without.”
As for what to expect from Canje, whose name references the national bird of Guyana, the chef points to the blending of cuisines that occurs in the typical dishes served among those who live in the South American country.
“To me, Caribbean food represents a combination of different cultures: Indian, Portuguese, African, French… It is such a ‘cookup,’“ says Bristol-Joseph, who was named a Best New Chef in 2020 by Food & Wine as well as one of Tribeza’s People of the Year (alongside the restaurants’ co-owner Kevin Fink), in a press release announcing the plans to open Canje. “Since moving to Austin, I have been craving this food, and it is exciting for me to have the opportunity to share my version of it. My grandmother is going to be proud.”
The restaurant’s website — understandably still a work in progress — has a few cheeky comments where the menus will appear (under desserts, Bristol-Joseph’s specialty, it currently says, “Trust us, these are going to be real good”), so stay tuned for future announcements on the creative Caribbean dishes Canje will serve.
Based on the images provided by Canje as well as his comments in 2019, there are a few that make safe bets:
“I can eat curry every single day and I would not be upset with my life. I would be very happy,” he said. “You can eat curry and rice. You can eat curry with vegetables. You can eat curry and roti. You can eat curry with tortillas. You can eat it with anything.”
Bristol-Joseph also mentioned his mother’s pork, a fatty cut cooked with pumpkin and served over rice, as his “absolute favorite.”
Cook-up rice, a Guyanese staple his grandmother made for him, is another dish we wouldn’t be surprised to see on the menu at Canje. “Think about cook-up rice just as you would think about a jambalaya for New Orleans, a fried rice for Asia. Every culture has that dish,” he said, adding that cook-up rice in the Caribbean is made with rice, seasoning, different types of meat and vegetable — but especially spinach, because it’s common in Guyana — and coconut milk “all together in the same pot” and served in a bowl.
The chef also talked about the durability and versatility of green plantains. “We would cut them up and that would be our French fries,” he said. “You’d eat that with a spicy mango sauce and that’s your fries with ketchup.”
Time will tell when it comes to writing the menu at Canje and the various roles Bristol-Joseph’s homeland and other Caribbean places will play. A post on a newly launched Instagram page for the eatery (@canjeatx) announces: “Inspired by dishes from Puerto Rico to mainland Guyana, we will be creating food that tells a story.”