“It’s still pretty surreal”: A Q&A with Tyrone Edwards, eTalk’s newest co-anchor and a first-time restaurateur
This week’s season 19 premiere of eTalk started with the reveal of the show’s new co-anchor: Tyrone Edwards. The move has been in the works since June, when former anchor Ben Mulroney stepped down to “make room for diverse voices.” Edwards is a Canadian entertainment industry veteran—a frequent eTalk contributor and a former MuchMusic host. He is also, as of last month, a restaurateur with Miss Likklemore’s, a new and unabashedly Black pop-up on Queen West. Here, he talks with Toronto Life about his expanding resume, his newfound passion for johnnycakes and why both he and his restaurant are officially “unmuted.”
Big congrats on the new gig. You must be pretty excited.
Honestly, it’s still pretty surreal. I mean, I knew I was in the running. When I found out, it was like the part in a movie where something happens and then there is just this flashback through a person’s life. When I was 13 years old I used to walk by the old MuchMusic building and dream that one day I would be the host of Rap City. That dream came true 10 years ago and since then I have gotten so many amazing opportunities, realized a lot of other dreams. Being in the anchor chair at eTalk was always one of those dreams. I just didn’t see a path.
You posted on Instagram about how excited your mom is. Just how excited is she?
Oh, yes. My mom is my biggest fan. She’s been calling me between every interview, saying “God is good, God is good.” She calls me “the anchorman” which I think is so funny because she definitely has never seen the Will Ferrell movie. I think we’re going to have to watch it together.
In the new promo you describe yourself as “Black and unmuted.” Can you explain?
“Unmuted” is a reference to a breakthrough moment I had on national television back in May. I was appearing on an episode of The Social and we were discussing what it felt like to be a black man in this particular moment. I decided I was going to tell the truth. For so long I didn’t want to be “too Black” in certain spaces for fear of not being accepted or because I knew I wasn’t going to be. Unmuted means I’m not going to do that anymore.
Okay, let talk food. First things first—who is Miss Likklemore?
Ha! “Likkle more” is Jamaican slang and basically it means catch you later. So Miss Likklemore is that person who’s always on the move, but she’ll be back. The name was the brainchild of our head chef Lonie Murdock. And then I’m a part of a Covid relief campaign called See You Soon. We have raised over $250,000, served 3,000 meals to front line workers and single income families. So it all feels very aligned.
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You are clearly a busy guy. What made you decide to get into the restaurant business, especially right now?
To be honest, Miss Likklemore’s is the kind of place that I wanted to go to as a patron, but it wasn’t really out there. Obviously Toronto has a lot of diversity when it comes to global food, and Caribbean food in particular. These are the places that have kept our culture and food alive, they have allowed us to grow up in this city and still be able to access the tastes and flavours of our homelands, and I want to be clear that we are standing on their shoulders. My partner Darren Hinds is Guyanese, I’m Jamaican, a bunch of our partners are from Trinidad. Our vision was to create a place that celebrates the history of Caribbean cuisine, but to do it in a way that had a sort of nightlife sensibility. When we connected with Chef Lonie, who is also Jamaican, the idea really came together. The menu she has created combines so many familiar flavours, but it’s also really different from anything else that’s out there. She makes a dish called the Johnny Too Bad, which is jerk chicken served between two johnnycakes—I had never tried them before.
Was the plan for Miss Likklemore’s in place before the pandemic?
We looked at some locations, one we were pretty excited about, and then it didn’t work out. And then Covid hit and we thought, “okay, let’s wait and see.” Given the way the restaurant industry has been hit, we decided to start with a pop-up to see how it would work and how it would be received. Definitely everything has been positive so far, so there is reason to be hopeful about something more permanent.
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What has it meant to open your business at this moment of racial reckoning?
I think it’s divine, particularly because it wasn’t necessarily the plan. I think for all of us, we see this in a way to present our culture that feels positive and celebratory, but at the same time not watered down. You’re going to hear Caribbean music and you’re going to see the menu that has our slang. If you’re not familiar with it, that’s part of the fun.
Can restaurant culture play a role in addressing racism?
Definitely. I think of Miss Likklemore’s as a proud, unmuted, full-blown Black experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy to be Black, but there is so much to feel positive about right now, so many important conversations happening. And a realization of the realities around anti-Black racism is not just a problem for Black people to solve. I think there are a lot of people who want to support Black-owned businesses and we’re making that even easier when you can come in, have a good time and eat some delicious curried chana and jerk chicken. For some people it’s going to remind them of vacation; to other people, it reminds them of home. Every Sunday, our dinner special is prepared by one of our family members. Someone’s grandma that makes a mean curried chicken, or someone’s uncle whose oxtail or rice can’t be beat.
Has your mom made anything yet or is she too busy adjusting to your new anchorman status?
I’m hoping that will happen soon. Her stew peas and rice are amazing.