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The spice of life: Levi Roots

Since his Dragons' Den appearance, singer and chef Levi Roots has slayed hearts with his Reggae Reggae sauce. Here he shares his inspiration...

Posted: 16 May 2011
by Helen McKay-Ferguson

We were so poor when I was little that we didn’t have the sort of food you can buy in the shops. Until I was 12, I lived in Clarendon, Jamaica, about 30 miles outside of Kingston. I don’t remember ever going to a supermarket.

There was always lots and lots of food. My grandfather had a farm and grew lots of fruit trees, spices and herbs.

I was sous chef for my grandmother. She sent me out to collect stuff from the garden. I’d dig deep for the yams and pick green bananas from the trees. The doctor bird pollinates banana trees – I learnt that, and so much more, from being around food.

I never saw my grandmother after I left Jamaica. She died when I was 16. But all that she taught me in the kitchen – how to blend and balance sauces – will live on forever.

My mother introduced me to supermarkets. She went on ahead to Brixton when I was six and I didn’t join her until later. It was only then that I discovered packets and tins.

Cooking a dish is like composing a symphony. You take care to put the right things in it. And it’s all about the timing. Cook for too short a time, and it’s not ready. Do too much, and it’s burnt.

Everyone in the Jamaica sings or DJs. I don’t know anyone from the Caribbean who doesn’t sing, even just a little bit. For Caribbean people, food is the first love. Music is the second.

Pixie Lott is great, I’d love collaborate with her. She’s so young and fresh. I’d also love to duet with Stevie Wonder too, who wouldn’t?

I have seven children and six grandchildren, ranging from 18 months to nine years. I can’t wait until they’re all old enough to help me in the kitchen.

Make it smokin’. That’s my recipe for the perfect meal, I don’t like too much frying and oil. I love big barbecues in the garden with all my friends and family.

You should eat a hot curry on a hot summer’s day. People say a hot cup of tea can help cool you down. It’s the same with curry. It makes you sweat.

I used to go to Brockwell Park when I was growing up – it’s my local park. Now it’s where I’m holding Lazy Sunday on May 29 – an afternoon of laid-back music and free samples from my Caribbean Meal range. My daughter Joanne will be singing and there will be steel bands, cookery demonstrations and more! The local people have supported me all the way so I can't think of a better place to hold it.

There's a lido in Brockwell Park where you could cool off, but I recommend eating more curry.

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