How Ryan's Making Sunderland Fresher

10522 SCC We All Make Sunderland 1

The Calabash Tree is making taste buds tingle in Washington. Now, the Caribbean-inspired cuisine is heading to Sunderland’s Sheepfolds for a new tasty venture. 

Ryan McVay knows a thing or two about great cooking. His mobile food service, The Calabash Tree, is always busy – catering events, sending out deliveries and serving up a feast of loaded rotis, sunshine bowls and jerk chicken in his hometown of Washington. Now, he’s bringing his colourful flavours to Sunderland’s Sheepfolds with a brand new eatery, Cove Caribbean. As Ryan describes it, “It’s all a bit of a dream come true.” 


A taste of home 

With his mum’s family hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, Ryan grew up in a home where good food was everything. So when an injury forced him to retire from the fire service, he decided to give cooking a go. “I did a three-night kitchen takeover at a place in Houghton and it went down a storm. Six months later I was a finalist in the British Street Food Awards.” Ryan retells, “The judges couldn’t believe I’d only just started.” 

He took over an empty restaurant to try out recipes on friends and was overwhelmed by the response. “Growing up I could never get the food I enjoyed anywhere but home,” says Ryan, “If I went to London or places like that there would be lots to choose from, but it just wasn’t here.” Ryan took the plunge and set up The Calabash Tree, serving up modern versions of his family’s Caribbean dishes and authentic curry recipes. 


“People here are looking for new tastes, new foods… I love being part of that.” 


Sharing the recipe 

Ryan’s on a mission to provide amazing Caribbean food to the people of Sunderland – and he’s succeeding. “The food and drink scene is really picking up.” He’s loved seeing people get to know his menu and enjoy different taste combinations. As Ryan explains, “There’s so much going on here, so much collaboration and support for ventures like mine.” 

With all of this encouragement, Ryan’s keen to extend a hand to the next generation of chefs and flavour-makers, recruiting more staff for his newest venture and looking to offer long-term training opportunities for those at Sunderland College. “I want to be able to promote local talent, because that talent is right here.” 


Spicing up Sunderland 

With the delicious addition of Cove Caribbean to the food scene, Sunderland is proving to be a fast-moving and exciting place to be. “As the city develops, it’s bringing new opportunities.” Ryan states, “There are people moving here from other cities, and bringing their skills with them. It feels like the place to be.” 


Feeling inspired? 

Take it further with these related pages and websites: 

Check out Ryan’s amazing food. 

Explore places to eat and drink across the city. 

Find out more about Sheepfold’s development plans. 

Try your hand at cooking with these tasty Caribbean favourites.