At the intersection of East 161 Street and Concourse Village West in the Bronx, it’s lunchtime on a recent Friday afternoon: Residents and workers snake down the sidewalk for a meal from Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, a Jamaican food truck that’s been in business for nearly 30 years.
Jerk and curry chicken; grilled fish; vegan BBQ strips; along with staple sides of collard greens, rice, and steamed cabbage are the basis for the Kingston-born Fauzia Abdur-Rahman’s livelihood. While little has changed when it comes to the menu, last year, Abdur-Rahman decided to step aside so her daughter, Fauzia Aminah-Rasheed, could take over.
Many dishes on the menu represent a little of every family member, Aminah-Rasheed says. For her vegetarian father, a vegetarian or vegan dish is always served. New creations like the jerk chicken gyro were invented by her older brother. The innovative dishes fuse Jamaican cuisine with traditional New York City food truck staples.
“The thing about our menu is that you can see pieces of everybody in our family,” Aminah-Rasheed says.
The entirely halal menu makes the food truck’s mission all the more special. As a practicing Muslim family, who struggled to find halal options nearby, Aminah-Rasheed says the food truck is vital for the community.
“We wanted to make sure that we did our part for other practicing Muslims in finding halal food,” she says.
“I put my heart and soul into this business,” says her mother, Abdur-Rahman. “Owning a business is like having a child. You have to be very attentive to it for you to prosper and grow, and that’s what I did.”
Abdur-Rahman made her way to New York City in her late teenage years. Taking a flurry of jobs to support herself, she eventually landed in corporate America. Motivated by her mother, she began pondering ideas for new ventures. With the encouragement of friends and family, she decided to explore options in the food industry. She finally obtained a mobile food vending license after a strenuous process. After scouring for a perfect location, she set up shop feet away from the Bronx courthouses in 1994.
For roughly three decades, Abdur-Rahman, 64, and her husband have manned the station, becoming notable figures in the community. As she’s grown up, her daughter, Fauzia Aminah-Rasheed, has been by their side.
The business soon became ingrained in Aminah-Rasheed’s life as it became a second home. The now 28-year-old, and her brothers, Hasan Rasheed, and Ibrahim Abdur-Rahman, found themselves helping their mother so much so that after graduating from Stony Brook University in 2016, Aminah-Rasheed soon decided to join the team full-time.
Of her daughter’s takeover, her mother, Abdur-Rahman adds, “It’s a wonderful feeling because I feel like my work was not in vain. The sky’s the limit with her.”
The food truck begins to heat up, figuratively and literally. Beginning her day at 7:30 a.m., Aminah-Rasheed, working in the scorching heat from inside the food truck, continues to put the finishing touches at 11 a.m. She acknowledges regulars, families, and children of the neighborhood, who begin to line up on a Friday afternoon.
Of the truck’s fate during COVID, “the Bronx was a ghost town,” Aminah-Rasheed says. “It was a scary time. I was worried because I put all my eggs in this basket.” What used to be a busy intersection filled with traffic and a storm of customers became quiet.
Despite shutting down for a few months, the business adapted and expanded its reach: With the help of Hot Bread Kitchen, the nonprofit that creates economic opportunity through careers in food, the food truck hit the road and set up shop in Harlem. The food truck reopened to serve a new group of people: construction workers.
As operations pivoted, more changes were set to come during this transformative period. Soon, Bloomberg’s corporate philanthropy, which has been connected with Hot Bread Kitchen since 2016, provided pro bono services to the food truck as part of the business’ mission to provide resources to small businesses. These services included assistance in branding, operations, and strategic planning.
From a new decked-out truck design to a heavy Instagram presence, the business elevated its identity, helping the business become distinguishable from the nearly 500 food trucks in New York City, Aminah-Rasheed says.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” she says. “To take advantage of things like social media and stuff helps put us on a different level.”
Despite the changes, the operations never strayed away from what helped them become a staple in the community: the family recipes. Learning how to cook from her mother, including the creation of their homemade spices and seasonings, Aminah-Rasheed soon had an epiphany: Shortly after, their homemade seasonings hit the market.
As the business evolves, customers, old and new, continue to visit the truck for “heavenly delights.” in the line for Fauzia’s, courthouse workers Matt Wasserman and Sara Wolovick say the food is delicious and affordable compared to the various spots nearby. And while the business continues to maintain regular customers, it also attracts new patrons like Lloyd Brown.
“[The jerk chicken platter] was amazing,” he says. “Somebody recommended it to me. Now, I will always be over there.”
After a day of cooking 50 pounds of chicken, serving homemade desserts, and feeding the community, Aminah-Rasheed wraps up operations at 3:30 p.m. But, she can’t help but think about her journey and what the next years will bring.
“So much work, sweat, and so much stuff has been sacrificed to make this business succeed,” Aminah-Rasheed says. “Right now, I’m just putting in the work, the blood, sweat and tears just like my parents did to get to that next level.”