Springfield, Missouri, has always packed a major flavor punch, especially for a community of its size. That’s one reason why Du’Sean Howard chose to open Jamaican Patty Co., a small eatery serving Jamaican bites, 18 months ago. “The Jamaican culture is very welcoming,” Howard says. “We like to embrace newcomers, and I find that to be true here in Springfield as well.”

Howard and his wife, Latoya, were both born in Jamaica. They moved to Canada to pursue Howard’s entrepreneurial dreams, eventually finding themselves in Missouri for Howard’s job. They found much more than the sleepy Midwestern town they were expecting – they discovered a rich foodie community primed for a delicious injection of Jamaican culture. “We’ve met so many people in Springfield who enjoyed their travels to Jamaica, so we knew the concept would work,” Howard says. They opened Jamaican Patty Co. as a small, scalable concept, focusing on traditional Jamaican patties, which are flavor-packed meat pies encased in buttery, flaky pastry dough.

Of course, the patties are just one element of Jamaica’s vibrant culinary culture. “Food is a big deal in Jamaica,” Howard says. “You can’t go to a family member’s house without trying something new. They’ll get fish directly from the sea, they’ll cook the cow in all kinds of different kinds of ways – most importantly, everything is always so flavorful.” With a diverse range of Jamaican staple dishes to choose from – fried dumplings, roasted breadfruit, flavorful steamed fish and peanut porridge, to name a few – it was hard for Howard to choose just one thing on which to center his menu. Ultimately, he feels that patties are a manageable way to get Springfield talking about Jamaican cuisine. Now, he’s focused on expanding his reach through a new food truck while exploring franchise possibilities.

Overall, Howard has been pleasantly surprised with Springfield’s affinity for Jamaican culture. As more and more locals experience the patty company’s rich, savory Jamaican flavors, the approval rating has nowhere to go but up. “Jamaica is known for flavor,” Howard says. “So if it tastes good by Jamaican standards, it’s going to taste good anywhere else in the world.”

Do you have a secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique? The key word there is “secret.” I can tell you the patties are all made in a very specific way, and pimento seeds really do a lot for the flavoring.

What is your first food memory? Steamed fish and crackers [a traditional Jamaican one-pot meal]. That’s the first dish I fell in love with. We actually went to a restaurant for it when I was probably 11 or 12. From that day on, it’s been my favorite dish. You have to have it when the fish is right out of the sea.

What concepts or styles of cooking do you hope to see added or expanded in Springfield? It’s hard to get quality seafood locally here. I know restaurants like Char get things imported to ensure the quality of the fish, and I’d love it if others would try to do the same thing – unfortunately, it’s just not the same as having fresh-caught fish. It’s always disappointing when you can taste the preservatives in the fish. Overall, I would love more authentic food representing distinct cultures.

What do you like to cook at home or on your day off? We cook a lot of authentic Jamaican food, stuff you wouldn’t find in a restaurant. We make ackee and saltfish, which is actually the national dish of Jamaica [a traditional breakfast or dinner dish made with salt cod and boiled ackee fruit]. We also do a lot of soups and porridges at home. We’ll mix it up from time to time and even make pasta, but it’s not like pasta you’ve tried here; the difference is the flavors. My wife and I have two kids, and we’ve made sure to immerse them in the culture from birth.

What inspires your cooking? How do you approach R&D at your restaurant, and what inspires that process? I want people to know that the restaurant is run by people who are hoping to communicate the Jamaican culture to this culture. I’d say we’re some of the only authentic Jamaicans here in Springfield – there are, of course, other people who are from Jamaica, but a lot of them never really got the chance to experience the culture the way I’ve been able to. I lived most of my life there, and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to all of the different types of foods around the island. So we’re really hoping to communicate that.

What are your future plans? We certainly have our eyes on franchising. We want to be able to expand, which is why we have a fairly small menu now. We’re just barely touching the surface of Jamaican cuisine, but it’s like this: When you think of Starbucks, you think of coffee. We want people to think of patties when they think of our restaurant. We had actually considered opening another location in downtown Springfield, but we decided to go with a food truck instead. Then, someday, maybe another restaurant that has a wider variety of Jamaican cuisine – it would be a real treat to have a full-scale Jamaican restaurant here.

Jamaican Patty Co., 3439 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, Missouri, 417.886.1144, JamaicanPattyCo.com

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Lillian Stone is a writer based in Springfield, Missouri. Her life revolves almost entirely around her next meal.

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