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Roots, rock and roll

GRAND OPENING: Levi Root’s mum offers a helping hand cutting the ribbon

IT’S NEARLY Christmas and really, I should be chatting to you about yours and my preparations for a lovely rum-soaked Caribbean Christmas pudding recipe for the Yuletides season coming our way.

But lowdahmercy, ah no dat de pan mi mine. My thoughts are else where, on my first ever (proper) rasta’urant – not restaurant.

It’s now opened and I am sooo excited. Can you imagine it, something I have always dreamt about. I’ve been lucky in my business ventures thus far and got the sauce business locked, but this was a new venture. The amount of planning that went into this is incredible. Now I know why so many restaurant businesses fail within a few years of opening their doors.

For me, those lessons had been learnt. I have talked with you via this column about preparation and about getting the right people to work with. So for me? It’s a bit like having a baby really…well the father’s role. All I did was wait and wait, while the designers, tech guys and builders did their thing, all the hard work, of course. I just spent my time in the kitchen for nine months, doing my thing cooking, eating, drinking and playing my guitar, planning for when my baby arrived.

In truth, I was painstakingly working on the top-notch food and beverages selection, which I think will blow you away, a choice of mouth-watering offering from my Caribbean inspired cookbooks straight from the top draw. I think I outdid myself this time. But you know how it is, sweetest dreams do turn out to be a right nightmare some times, especially if they are recurring ones like this was to me. But I woke up last week as soon as I entered through those doors in Westfield Stratford - my doors - and the builders were long gone, the covering on the glass window removed and the staff were getting busy. Felt I had to pinch myself, ouch! I actually thought I was still asleep. The place tun-up! So forgive me if I’m not all Santa-fied just yet.

But right now I am a little nervous; we are talking about Westfield shopping centre here, the largest shopping mall in Europe. I’ll be really exposed…my own peeps will give me hell, yu done know; some young English youth will be like: “Blood, the rice and peas ain’t exactly like how my mum does it,” or from a yardman: “Yo, Levi how yu no av no Blue-draws, mi vex fi dat”. Some will be criticising just because they are as excited as I am; but can only express themselves that way. It will be important that I take all the feedback, both positive and negative as valuable information.

GOOD VIBES: Guests enjoy themselves at the Smokehouse

I have talked before about fixing up the whole Caribbean restaurant business sector and we’ve had a few laughs at the expense of some bad examples, so now what? I am in the line of fire. I realise people will be looking to see that I do address certain big points as well; which I know they are concerned over; like employing a multi-cultural staff, wages levels, gratuities, staff hospitality and customer service skills and food authenticity issues.

Veggie, vegan and Italist are catered for too; and to represent the Caribbean as a whole rather than focusing too much on Jamaica and Bob Marley.

All of the above has been addressed. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, so things like: “Lowdahmercy Levi, ah how de food a tek so lang? All I can say to that is: “No badda wid-e yah!”

The first few weeks will be a challenge, as it often is with most businesses in the start up phase, but I feel we are well prepared. I am lucky to be working with people who are excellent at what they do and are all excited and ready to Roots, rock and roll with me.

So you finish soak the fruits, the peels, spices and currants in the rum (lots of it) for the pudding recipe because by the time it well sapp up, it will be time to pay me a visit for the main course. And remember now, it’s not a restaurant it’s a rasta’urant!

More love LR.

Levi Root’s Caribbean Smokehouse is situated at 103 The Street, Montfichet Road, Westfield Stratford City, Stratford, Greater London E20 1EN | 020 3841 6897

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