Image courtesy of Levi Roots
No matter what you may think about Levi Root's jerk and bbq sauces (or his music), you can't help but admire his ambition and his laid back yet positive approach toward living. Just in time for his upcoming Monday night performance at Jazz Cafe, here's our interview with the man who's found a way to turn his passion for music and food into a celebrated career.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about your connection to London? When did you move here and what was it like moving here as a child from Jamaica? Do you still live in London?
I’m the youngest of six. I was practically raised by my grandmother, Miriam, because my parents moved to Britain to start a new life. She taught me to value the rich natural spice cabinet that is Jamaica’s bounty of plants, herbs and spices. She instilled in me the appreciation of cooking them, sharing the recipe for her jerk chicken sauce, which has been handed down through the generations and became Reggae-Reggae.
Because my parents were so poor, they could only afford to bring one child a year to Brixton so being the last to make the journey I was blessed in having the time I got to spend with my Grandmother and what was really an idyllic life boarding the iron bird and touching down in Britain at age 11 was certainly a shock to my system. It was autumn when I got here and coming from herbaceous Jamaica it was the first time I had ever seen trees without leaves!!
I still live in the same flat in Brixton that I have been in for 15 years.
Got any favourite Caribbean restaurants in London that you'd like to recommend?
Yes definitely - I’m a great fan of Glistening Waters in Brentford. Not only were they one of the first restaurants to support me and stock my Reggae Reggae Sauce, they really do, in their own right, beautifully represent what fine Caribbean cuisine is all about, widely aromatic and flavoursome, richly reflecting the great diversity of the Caribbean itself.
Any favourite music venues?
Well that would have to be the Jazz Café in London. It has a great atmosphere and has played host to some of the finest talent the music industry has to offer. I’m looking forward to my gig there this Monday 29th as the final date in the first leg of my 2010 tour.
What's your musical and culinary tour all about? Will you be cooking on stage between sets?
The tour is all about bringing the two loves of my life together - music and food. So yes, I’ll be cooking and performing on stage. It’s a new concept but it’s going down really well with audiences around the country.
When and where will you perform in London?
The Jazz Café on Monday 29th March at 7pm. The sensational roots sound system Abashanti will be joining me on stage. And as ever I will be backed by Mafia + Fluxy, my sparring partners.
If you had to choose one, cooking or making music, which would it be?
That’s a very difficult question, they’re both huge passions of mine which is why I like to combine them - putting the music into food.
Just how much did that appearance on the Dragon's Den change your life?
I have been selling Reggae Reggae sauce from a stall in Notting Hill Carnival since 1991. After perfecting the recipe in my flat and creating a label for the bottle it took another 16 years of rejection from banks and businesses who thought it looked and sounded “too black” for my time to come. So, Dragon’s Den made a huge difference to my life. Reggae Reggae has sold over seven million bottles. Peter Jones is a great mentor to me, and I want him to be part of the business forever.
An Evening with Levi Roots is Monday, 29 March at Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway in Camden (NW1 7PG). Doors open at 7pm. Visit www.jazzcafelive.com for more info.