EPISODE 24: LEVI ROOTS: ENTREPRENEUR
My castaway this week is Levi Roots.
Levi was born Keith Valentine Graham in Jamaica. After his parents moved to the UK when he was 4, he was brought up by his grandparents before eventually moving to Britain at the age of 11.
He shot to fame in 2007 by appearing on Dragon’s Den with his famous Reggae Reggae sauce. He wowed the dragon’s and managed to secure a £50,000 investment from Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.
Within 4 weeks his Reggae Reggae sauces were outselling Heinz tomato ketchup in Sainsbury’s and since then his business has gone from strength to strength. Pretty incredible stuff since before the show he was making all the sauces in his kitchen and selling them on a market stall. He now has so many products ranging from sauces, to snacks, to seasonings and ready meals. He’s written 7 books, released 4 albums and opened a successful restaurant. He does a lot of work with the Prince’s Trust and is a key figure in the Brixton community.
We recorded this at Levi’s restaurant in Westfield Stratford so you can hear a little of the hustle and bustle of the restaurant in the background which I kind of like.
Levi has a whole host of delicious Desert Island Dishes in his selection and oh my goodness – Levi’s final desert island dish sounds like complete heaven. I love the sound of the porridge his grandmother used to make and you also know from the way he talks, dinner parties at Levi's house will be really fun!
I really love how universal the love for chicken soup is. No matter who you are, or where you live, it seems our mums or grannies make the best ones. Levi talks about the magic chicken soup made by his mum –in which she adds lots of christophine. Christophine isn't an ingredient I've come across before, but it sounds great. Levi says it gives the soup a lovely texture and flavour. Levi serves a version in his restaurant – which he says isn’t quite as good as his mums, but of course we know you can never beat your mum's, but to everyone else his version is very delicious.
As for his choice of sandwich, it was not what I was expecting at all. Levi doesn’t like a soggy sandwich which is completely fair enough and a view that is shared by a lot of people. For a man who's culinary life is so filled with flavour and flair, I was surprised that his choice of sandwich would be the humble cheese sandwich. But he tells us that he only really buys sandwiches at the petrol station and if he I really pushing the boat out he may add a tomato to the mix....at a push. A man of simple sandwich tastes, who'd have thought it.
I love the sound of the Martinique chicken curry. A curry inspired by Indian flavours and packed full of fruits such as mangoes, papaya and tamarind. This is the dish Levi chose as the dish he eats the most often.
I think Levi’s story is really inspiring, and he talks so eloquently about his time in prison and how he worked to turn his life around with huge success. He wasn't necessarily the child at school that everyone believed was destined for fame or riches but he says he probably was the only person who could completely turn his life around. He didn't let his past define him and I think that's very impressive.
I just thought there were so many interesting and inspiring nuggets in this episode. Hope you enjoyed listening to Levi. Have a listen here if you haven't already:
Desert Island Dish:
Jerk chicken, rice and peas with coleslaw and plantain
Luxury Item: Guitar
Don't forget to check out the recipe inspired by Levi's Desert Island Dishes.