Montreal Community Builder Richard Hillary Is a Local Legend | Hidden Gems

In the latest episode of Hidden Gems, Jamaican-Canadian Richard Hillary talks about bringing Montreal's creative community together with his bar Local Legend.

Every day, the Jamaican community continues to thrive beyond its national borders via exceptional individuals who carry the culture forward. In Complex Canada’s new series Hidden Gems, brought to you in collaboration with Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum and Fela, we highlight Jamaican-Canadian creatives and entrepreneurs who are a part of the island’s massive global impact. Richard Hillary is one shining example. The musician, cinematographer, and restaurateur—also known as Full Course—is a renowned dot-connector in Montreal’s creative community. Until recently, he was the owner of Local Legend, a beloved Jamaican-inspired resto-bar celebrating local artists and Caribbean culture. “[It] was this idea I had that was this Black-owned urban spot where we have our music, we have our culture, we have our cuisine,” he says. “Just this inviting, invigorating, building, networking environment.”

Unfortunately, Local Legend didn’t survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hillary is determined to create a new space to serve the community and bring Montreal together again. Throughout history, after all, Jamaicans have shown great resilience in the face of adversity. “The brick and mortar [of Local Legend] is gone but we came out with way more than what we lost,” he says. “We realized how much we got the community together, and really how much it grew, and how much of a need that there’s gonna be for a Local Legend now more than ever.”

In this episode, Hillary walks us through the neighbourhoods in Montreal that exemplify the vibrant creative and Jamaican-Canadian communities he is a part of. He meets Joy Spence, our host and Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, who shares his passion for and commitment to bringing people together. After all, community is an integral part of Jamaican culture—and it takes a community of people joining forces to create Appleton Estate’s premium rums. Whether uniting people via spaces or spirits, both are labours of love.

At Mango Bay, a staple in Montreal’s Caribbean community for over 20 years, the two connect over an Appleton Estate Signature Daiquiri—the citrus notes of which pair perfectly with the spicy flavour of the accompanying char-grilled jerk chicken dish. Hillary and Spence discuss their respective work, and how Jamaican communities carry their culture beyond the island—through tight-knit Caribbean communities found worldwide, and through traditions like premium rum.

The conversation—and the beverage—provide plenty of inspiration for Hillary’s next successful venture.

“I’m Canadian, but I’m Jamaican. That’s what we know and that’s who we are. You have spots that are doing stuff in Montreal but there’s nothing that was really introducing our culture to these crowds,” Hillary says. “We’re really looking forward to doing the same thing on a bigger scale.”

Latest in Life