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Meet Ihsan Munir of Islandboy Spices & Catering in Glendale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ihsan Munir.

Ihsan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began cooking at a very early age and catered my first family party at the age of nine. I also started mixing and blending spices based on what I witnessed my grandmother doing. That served as the foundation for launching my company, Islandboy Spices, which then morphed into Islandboy Spices and Catering. I cater for groups of all sizes from 20 people to over 900 people. Although my specialty is Caribbean Cuisine, I cater all kinds of food and I am known throughout LA for my BBQ: I use my BBQ trailer (Badass BBQ) when catering large outdoor events.

I also do private cooking lessons for people who want to learn how to cook. I am not a chef, but I am someone who is passionate about cooking, have been doing so for a very long time and will be publishing my cookbook later this year. See the excerpt from cookbook below:

As far back as I can remember, I used to sit on the opposite side of the counter and watch Granny in the kitchen as she chose, sliced, chopped and minced vegetables and herbs gathered and blended spices, seasoned and cooked masterful dishes. I never asked her any questions; I didn’t have to. She was teaching me what to do and how to do it without saying a word. Instead, she did everything in front of me, cognizant of the fact that I was observing her every move; committing everything to memory. I was the “baby” in the house and the one who took a keen interest in this wonderful talent that Granny possessed. I was eager to practice what I had witnessed and soon enough, Granny gave me the opportunity to try my hand in the kitchen. She kept close and intervened to ensure that I didn’t burn myself or lose any fingers while slicing and dicing. This was a mentorship and one of the best ways to learn a new skill. I sopped it up!

I was raised on the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. I was your typical island boy. I spent countless hours playing in the yard with my friends, going to the beach, climbing trees and enjoying all of the local fruits, enjoying the carnival and all of the local jam sessions and enjoying the awesome local food.
St. Thomas is the foundation of my culinary experience and Granny’s kitchen was my university. This is where it all began for Granny’s Islandboy.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Launching a business is not a smooth road for the typical person. It has not been smooth or easy but it is worth it. Like many small business owners, we struggle to get clients and without a large sum of cash it makes marketing and growing your business much harder to do. In terms of the spices, I have never had a product on the market and had to figure out bottling, packaging, shipping, pricing, sourcing, marketing, etc. It has not been an easy road but it is certainly paying off.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I manufacture authentic Caribbean Spice Blends and also cater for small and large groups. The thing that separates us from others is the love that we put into everything that we do. Love is the main ingredient in our spices and it is also how we prepare our food when catering. I am very responsive with my clients and aim to learn as much about their desires and expectations so that we can exceed those expectations. I am proud of the fact that a little island boy like me can make products that are sold all over the world and cater for all kinds of people… and they love my food.

What were you like growing up?
I am an introvert; though most people who know my past will never believe that. Growing up in the Virgin Islands, I was a reggae artist and was well known as a performer. I served as the lead entertainer at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas for eight years, prior to moving to California in 2006. I was always a shy kid in some aspects. I enjoyed cooking and being in the kitchen with my grandmother. However, in many respects, I was your typical island boy that enjoyed riding my bike, swimming, fishing, climbing trees, etc. I always loved sports – I was a pretty good basketball and football player. I always shied away from the clubs though… up until college.

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