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|| Chef and owner of My Little Dumplings ||

Many customers look at my dumplings and say, “but you’re not Chinese?” And I tell them,

“I wonder if my mother knows that?”

— Bashir

I sell organic dumplings and steamed buns using farm to table ingredients. I started this business three years ago and the goal is to celebrate diversity through dumplings.

I went to university for political science. I received a BA and then switched gears. I took culinary management at George Brown in 2000 and started my career as a professional chef.

I lived in Italy for 13 years, the U.S. for a couple of years and travelled through Europe. I’ve been in Canada for 21 years. Toronto is home to me.

At the end of May in 2012 when we started My Little Dumplings, it was a big moment because it took time to position ourselves as a dumpling vendor in the farmers’ market. I’ve been at Brickworks for three years with this business, but I also worked in catering and as a food vendor at the market for the past  eight years.

We sell other beverages, seasonal soups, sauces and condiments as well. This drink here is called sorrel. Many cultures use the hibiscus and steep it like tea. It’s made in the Caribbean islands and from Egypt to Yemen. It’s also the national drink of Sudan. Sudanese people call it karkady. The one i’m selling is seasoned in a Caribbean style by adding ginger and spices. It can be drunk cold during the summer or hot in fall and winter.

#Toronto #farmersmarket @evergreencanada …#panam …celebrating #diversity with #dumplings and #Bao

A photo posted by Bashir Munye (@chefbashir) on

How did you get started as a chef?

When I arrived in the city, I had never worked in the food industry. I just wanted to do something different because I was not happy with my path. There was a cooking program at the YMCA in 1996. At the gym one day, the staff asked me if I was interested in participating in the classes. I gave it a try and it’s been 19 years since then. I was privileged enough to find and work with really good mentors who got me to this point today.

I’ve always wanted to specialize in a particular product that people from around the world could identify with. I thought the dumpling would be a good vessel for diversity. Most cultures have some form of dumpling, whether it’s a pierogi, gnocchi or samosa; whether it’s steamed, baked or fried.

Future or past: which would you choose and why?

It’s a tough question, because if I knew then what I know now, I would have made particular changes. But the way we are going with our business, the future is so bright, I would need new sun glasses.

Is there a place in Toronto that you feel connected to?

The Brickworks market. I’ve known many of the farmers for many years. We are like a family. I buy a lot of our ingredients from them. I’ve also seen my son grow with me at the market over the past eight years. He’s a staple here.

The only obstacle is that we have a lot of demand so sometimes we have a difficult time keeping up. We are the process of getting a bigger kitchen so we can expand the business. It is a challenge, but a great way for us to grow.

Have you had any funny interactions with customers?

Many customers look at my dumplings and say, “but you’re not Chinese?” And I tell them,

“I wonder if my mother knows that.”

Store front at 1372 Queen St. E. (source: Dean Seguin)
Store front at 1372 Queen St. E. (source: Dean Seguin)

UPDATE: You can visit Bashir and his My Little Dumplings team at their new store in Leslieville (Queen Street E and Greenwood). 


Portrait photo: graffiti by Brickworks Market

Want more? Check out Bashir and his company’s website, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram account.