ONTARIO ─ A major work injury three years ago pushed Bryson Pollard to develop a food business -- Bryson's Cajun Seafood & Cuisines.
The Mansfield resident said he was a construction worker before suffering an injury that led to six reconstructive surgeries on his right leg. Doctors said he wasn’t going to be able to do construction work again.
“I just started thinking to myself: How am I going to survive now? I kind of sat and thought to myself: Whatever I do, it's got to be something that I love to do,” Pollard said.
His passion for cooking came to mind. He wanted to start a business that serves Cajun food, something uncommon in the Richland County region. Last June, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he established Bryson’s Cajun Seafood & Cuisines at his house and created a Facebook page for the business.
Pollard said within 48 hours, more than 2,000 people began following the page. The business has picked up since then. In early February, he moved the operation to Ontario AMVETS Post 31 locating at 2943 Park Ave. West, hoping to provide customers a dining space and help the business of the veterans club.
He recently updated the menu with the sole focus of Cajun seafood. Pollard said “Gotta Love It Platter” and “Mega Platter” are among the best sellers. The former comprises snow crab clusters, shrimps, sausages, corn and potatoes. The latter includes lobster tails, crawfish, shrimps, sausages, corn and potatoes.
There are many crawfish lovers in the area, the owner and chef said. People also love his crab macaroni and cheese. He plans to add fried deviled eggs to the menu later.
Born and raised in Ashtabula County, Pollard said he learned how to cook Cajun food from a friend’s parents when living in North Carolina years ago. The couple owned a small food business that was ready to close.
He volunteered to work for them and in return, the owners showed him how to make Cajun seafood, Pollard said. He never went to a culinary school.
The chef said he wants to bring to authentic, home-cooked-style low country Cajun boil containing a little spiciness to the local market. Unlike some restaurants that cook everything together, he handles different ingredients separately at the temperature they need.
“I've met people here that have moved from Louisiana. And they tell me that I give them a taste of home,” he said with a smile.
Pollard also enjoys watching customers react with “Wow” when they see the food. The owner said they are usually impressed with the amount or the way the dish looks. He intends to make his food beautiful.
“It's like putting together a puzzle. It has to be made pretty,” Pollard said. “If it looks and tastes good, people are gonna come back.”
Pollard said he has offered catering services for weddings, birthday parties and many other events. While Cajun food is spicy in some cases, the chef said people can always get the regular butter-flavored sauce as an alternative.
Bryson’s Cajun Seafood & Cuisines accepts takeout and pre-orders. Customers can also dine in at the Amvets. More information could be found on the business’ Facebook page.