Chicago’s Jerk Tacos.Photo via @chicagosjerktacos/Instagram.

By Carolyn Brown

Chicago’s Jerk Tacos, a Caribbean-American food truck and ghost kitchen in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood, was recently awarded a grant by Heinz, The LEE Initiative, and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice.

It was one of 62 Black-owned food businesses in 20 states and Washington, D.C. to receive a 2023 Black Kitchen Initiative grant. (The exact amount that the business received is not public, but the grant funding totals $1 million altogether, and grantees were able to receive up to $25,000 each.)

The Black Kitchen Initiative, which is in its third year, is aimed at addressing disparities that make it difficult for Black entrepreneurs to access financing to start or continue a business. A Goldman Sachs report released in February said that Black small business owners struggled with finding new financing and have dipped into their personal savings to cover their business expenses at higher rates than the overall surveyed population of small business owners.

Previous Black Kitchen Initiative grant winners in Kentucky have included Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company, The Black Italian Griglia Cucina, and Highview Ice Cream and Coffee.

Chicago’s Jerk Tacos is open at 227 S. 30th St. from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. As a “ghost kitchen,” its brick-and-mortar location only serves food to go. Its menus include dishes like jerk tacos, jerk nachos, jerk fries, and jerk burgers.

A representative from Chicago’s Jerk Tacos was unavailable for comment at press time. However, Lindsey Ofcacek, co-founder and executive director of The LEE Initiative, said in a press release that the grant program “enables us to promote diversity in the culinary industry and usher in a more equitable landscape for chefs and food business owners.”

“These chefs, entrepreneurs, and restaurants play an integral role in our communities, and we recognize the importance of continuing to preserve and uplift their legacies in the future,” Ofcacek said.

Chef Edward Lee, cofounder and creative director of The LEE Initiative, said in an emailed statement:

The history of Black food is so integral to American food and history. There is a lot of work being done now to highlight and preserve these important treasures of cuisine.  We just want to be a part of that movement to help these business owners with the resources they need to continue serving their communities, which in turn, can ensure the preservation of Black food for the next generation.