A traditional Torres Strait Islander food business is on a mission to put Indigenous cuisine on the menu after recently opening the doors to their new shop front.
Founded by Townsville-born Torres Strait Islander, Evelyn Billy, Bina’s Kitchen first began operating as a food van late last year cooking for events and markets around the city.
“When we would take the food van to festivals and events, there would be lines of people waiting and we got such good feedback,” says Evelyn.
“The response was so positive, and it really inspired me to take the next step.”
The food van proved to be so popular that Evelyn decided to open her own store-front at Garbutt Central in April this year; something she heavily attributes to the support of the community.
“When I saw the space at Garbutt, I was encouraged to expand the business, so I took the leap and we finally opened,” adds Evelyn.
“The community has been so supportive and without that support and encouragement the shop wouldn’t be here today.”
Bina’s Kitchen offers a range of traditional Torres Strait Islander cuisine, with favourites including the coconut crayfish, chicken curries and sop sop – a gluten free dish of assorted sweet potatoes and pumpkins cooked in banana leaf.
Evelyn says she first learnt the delicacies of the Torres Strait cuisine from her late mother who worked as a cook at James Cook University.
“Catering is my passion. It’s something I grew up with and everything I’ve learnt has been from my mum. She was my inspiration,” continues Evelyn, who is now a mother of nine herself.
“Our cuisine is basically Torres Strait infused with Malaysian and also has a touch of Melanesian and Polynesian influence because of our ancestral background.”
Throughout her business journey, Evelyn has been supported by services such as the state government’s Mentoring for Growth program and The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services.
Alongside the traction inside the store, she and her five staff members have also been heavily booked with catering jobs for organisations such as Townsville City Council, Queensland Health and the Festival of Chamber Music.
“We’ve had heaps of catering requests and more continue to come in, so it’s really exciting to see it all coming to life,” says Evelyn.
“I love being able to share my different flavours and foods that are close to my heart with the community.”
Main image: Owners of Bina’s Kitchen, Evelyn Billy and Gibson Billy.
Image credit: Sonia Warrell – Hello Muse Photography