Photo Credit: Sazon Calypso
Sazon Calypso: The Afro-Costa Rican Food Truck Sharing Its Culture With The World
Meet Jennifer Bustillos Lewis, the owner and chef of Sazon Calypso, a food truck offering Afro-Latin and Caribbean soul food cuisine. She was born in Limon, Costa Rica, the home of the country’s Afro-Caribbean community, to a Limonese mother and Mexican-born father.
Having become a melting pot of diverse cultures due to the railroad construction in the late 1800s, Limon and its food reflects elements of indigenous, African, and Chinese influence. Jennifer’s Jamaican great-grandmother also heavily influenced the cooking style of her mother, who has worked as a cook in many restaurants throughout the years. Through her multicultural family, Jennifer was exposed to a wide range of Jamaican, Costa Rican, and Mexican dishes from an early age.
“Caribbean elements are very prevalent in my dishes, such as coconut milk, scotch bonnet, seafood, thyme and curry. My people have always been very resourceful, and the best proof of that is how no matter where we are, we will always find a way to turn even the most insipid tubers into the most flavorful dishes you’ve ever tried, and that is so inspiring and idiosyncratic of the African diaspora.”
Jennifer describes her food as a fusion of Afro-Caribbean creole cuisine with Latino staples. She opened her food business in 2018, inspired by the desire to share her Afro-Caribbean culture with others, and also wanting to leave her human resources job to be able to spend more time with her two children.
“Food allowed me to have this creative outlet where I could capture the essence of my culture and my passion for food and history. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and learning about the history of the African diaspora and its culinary legacy throughout the world, specifically in Latin America.”
“I started selling Jamaican beef patties and plantain tarts to my neighbors, and realized I wanted to do this professionally. I knew the basic recipes that I had learned from my mother, but I knew that I wanted to provide the best dishes and service, so I enrolled in the best culinary school in CR.”
Today, Jennifer is finishing up her culinary studies at Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje while operating her food truck. Among the plethora of delectable offerings of Sazon Calypso are patacones, rice and beans, oxtail, jerk chicken, gizzadas, coconut curry shrimp, tropical fruit pies, gallo pinto, corn tortillas, empanadas, and agua de sapo (a refreshing beverage featuring lime juice, brown sugar and ginger).
“Afro-Latin cuisine is vibrant, colorful, fun, flavorful and it makes you want to dance! It’s the perfect combination of elements that will never let you get bored. I would say that the most requested dish is rice and beans with chicken served with fried plantains and salad. Always with lots of gravy, of course!”
A conscious and sustainable business, Sazon Calypso avoids single use plastic containers and sources its ingredients from local farmers. The food truck is available for private events and can currently be found at farmer’s markets in Cartago, Costa Rica. Follow Sazon Calypso on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to see where they’ll be next.