Caron Prins is known around the world for her PEI french fries

It is not an exaggeration to suggest that Caron Prins and her ‘Chip Shack’ are known in many parts of the world. In fact, articles about her and her fries have been penned in Korea, Japan, China, Germany, the United States, and various parts of Canada and has been told by many thousands of tourists who have carried her story across the globe.
Prins and her famous french fries have been a fixture at the foot of Prince Street in Charlottetown since 2011. Before that she was in Borden-Carleton in 2010 and also had a brief stint on Queen Street in Charlottetown that year.
But her venture into the chip business almost did not happen.

Prins, who was born and grew up in Alexandra, PEI, travelled the world working in the service industry, but had never tried cooking for a living and “honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Prins said, in a recent interview as she whipped up some fish and chips for a customer.

“When I bought my shack I didn’t know how to turn on my frier, I didn’t know how to make french fries and so it [the shack] sat in my driveway for a couple of months until I found a location in Borden,” she said.

“On my very first day I was in the shack making french fries and they were absolutely terrible and I had no idea what I was going to do…I had maxed out my credit card and I thought I was never going to make any money at this.”

But as luck would have it, her potato supplier at the time, David Dawson, arranged for her to apprentice under Bud the Spud’s apprentice, who just happened to be Dawson’s brother-in-law. For the uninitiated, Bud the Spud is an iconic chip truck in Halifax parked on Spring Garden Road in 1977. It has since moved to Grafton Street in Halifax. Dawson also supplies their potatoes.

When Prins came home after 23 years abroad, she planned to stay only six months “hanging out with her family and not working and just kind of chilling.” But within three weeks she was invited to join a local rock band called Crazy Anne. And because she had been a singer for most of her life and loved it in the band, she decided to stay on PEI.
But the decision to stay on the Island meant she had to find a way to make a living and that was how the chip shack was born, Prins said. She bought the shack online and she and a friend towed it to Charlottetown from Cape Breton. The trip took 12 hours.

Since she was 19, Prins has been volunteering and backpacking in Third World countries as which is how she “came to love the street food vibe, the flavor and the little ‘ma and pa’s’ that are all over South and Central America and all through Southeast Asia.” She decided she wanted to bring a little of that back home.

Prins does not just cook and serve food, she is also a hit with her customers. Whether it be giving a big hug—which the menu on the side of the building states are free—posing for selfies, or waving at passersby—many of whom she greets by name, Prins’ customers love her.

Photo credit: Brian McInnis

An interview with her on a late-May Sunday morning took much longer than expected because she was continually interrupted by orders and preparing food. At one point she stopped speaking for a few seconds and asked the diners at the picnic tables, “How is everything?” She was greeted with a sea of thumbs up so she must be doing something right.

Trip Advisor, the travel website, has given her shack 4 ½ out five ‘plates’ and rated it fourth best out of the 185 restaurants in Charlottetown it reviewed. Terry’s Berries just up the street was rated tops.
All the secondary ingredients on her menu are her creations, from the gluten-free batter to the salts for the french fries. The lobster roll and hand cut fries are her best sellers.

Her menu started with fries and fish and chips and over the years it has grown to 16 items such as a lobster roll that Prins says contains only lobster meat and no fillers, gluten-free fish and chips, pulled pork poutine, and gluten-free apple fries. But at the top of the menu are her ‘world famous’ hand-cut Island chips that have made her the self-described ‘Queen of Fries’.

In early June, future development of the Prince Street site meant a move for Prins’ chip shack. It was hoisted onto a barge and floated to its new location on a floating dock at the Charlottetown Marina near Peakes Quay, just across from Confederation Landing Park. Her location may have changed, but her menu has not and the hugs are still free.

About Brian McInnis

Brian McInnis spent more than 40 years in the news business as a photographer, writer and editor, but his love is photography, particularly documenting the lives of everyday Islanders and the beauty of his home province.

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