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Jerkfather: The Interview

This interview was originally written by Andrew Gott, Community Manager at the International Quarter in Stratford.

 

Hi Del. What do you do in Stratford?
I own and operate Rhythm Kitchen, an authentic – and independent – Caribbean eatery at Westfield Stratford.

Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I was born just down the road in Forest Gate, and I now live in Walthamstow. I won’t tell you my age – a good looking man like me doesn’t reveal his age.

Of course. So what journey brought you to Rhythm Kitchen?
When I left school, I trained as a chef at hotels across London, including the Park Lane Hotel. I moved into all sorts of oddjobs, which lead to a job in television. I started off as a sound recordist (the boom guy), then in 2000, a friend brought me into his production company where we made television for channels like Bravo, the Discovery Network and National Geographic.

And how did that lead to opening a restaurant in Westfield?
Back in the 1980s, where Westfield and International Quarter London sits now, was a railway yard. In February 2010, Westfield was under construction and I thought there should be a Caribbean food presence. We pitched, submitted a business plan and were open in September 2011. The Olympics arrived in 2012.

What’s your fondest memory from being part of the Olympics?
It has to be meeting people from across the world, and showing off East London, London and Caribbean culture to them.

Your fantastic recipes – tell us a bit about the development behind them.
We tested everything on our friends and family, which was mutually beneficial – we would receive honest feedback, and they would be well fed. At first, they weren’t impressed. My brother told me “You’ve made better food than this before”, so we knew we had a lot of work to do.

Eventually the feedback gradually become overwhelmingly positive, so there wasn’t a light bulb moment as such, more of a total lack of negative feedback or suggestion. Our recipes for jerk pork, jerk chicken, jerk wings, the dry mix, the curry – they’re all original, developed by ourselves and secret.

For someone who has never sampled it, what is ‘jerk’?
Jerk is both a seasoning and a method of cooking. The seasoning varies based on region and family in the Caribbean but essentially always contains Scotch Bonnet pepper and pimento. If it doesn’t, it’s not jerk. The method involves a lot of smoking to produce succulent, tender meats.

What should someone sample at Rhythm Kitchen for the first time?
The ideal meal for beginners is jerk chicken, or curry goat – they’re the two big ones. I would serve them with rice and peas, and plantain… or coleslaw. They all work. People don’t think coleslaw would work, but it really does.

The ‘peas’ in rice and peas are actually beans, as when Caribbean migrants moved to the UK and couldn’t find the Gungo peas they used back at home, they began using red kidney beans. Just don’t do it like Marco Pierre White and use green peas. Ever. No garden peas.

Tell me what yourself and Ann (Del’s business and life partner) are most proud of, from the last 6 years?
The marinades that we created in our home, we’re now able to feed to people in Westfield, Stratford and beyond. To carry on the legacy of our British and Caribbean heritage. Without the love and support of the East London community, we wouldn’t still be here.

So… what’s in your secret sauce?
Well obviously that remains a secret, but we may give you the recipe to our most popular cocktail if you ask nicely – rum punch.

Reviewing the Kitchen

We work hard to make tasty food to our own special recipes – our Jerk is the way we do, not anyone else’s and we’re a small family-run place in a big shopping centre, up against all those chains and groups So when people them leave reviews for us, we take them serious. Some of them good, some of them great! We goin’ leave the false modesty aside for one minute and share a few of our favourites from the last few months.

First up, Desmond John Hamilton said:

This gem of a restaurant has nothing but beautiful authentic Caribbean cuisine. As a person of Caribbean origin I can’t praise the chefs in this establishment enough. Caribbean food is meant to be tasty spicy, & not the type of food where you need the fire engine nearby to hose you down, that’s exactly what the chefs in this magical Caribbean establishment achieves! Their lamb roti is succulent & beautifully made. The mark of good Caribbean restaurants can be seen when the chef has taken the time to blot away the excess oil of their fried plantains, very nicely done & never too oily. Damn it the Guinness punch is nearly as nice as mines!!!
If you have never ate Caribbean cuisine & your shopping in Westfield Stratford, then you should treat yourself because I’m sure you deserve the best food after your shopping!

Desmond, you’re welcome any time! Not everyone write as much as that, most people just leave a few words, but here are some others we can’t help but share:

“This is a great place to grab a bite when you are shopping. The food is delicious and reasonably priced, great vegan options, that are filling and a nice relaxed atmosphere to eat your food in! The staff are really nice too.”

“The food and flavors are amazing! I’m always satisfied when I eat here. They never disappoint! The jerk ribs are something I would suggest. The plantains are really good, too!”

“Authentic and great tasting food, and value for money. We are very selective about where we eat, and Rhythm Kitchen exceeds expectations in taste & fast service. It’s a welcoming oasis in a busy centre.”

“Great real Jamaican food ! As a Jamaican myself I was very impressed with the food and the quick service. Big up Rhythm Kitchen!”

“Pleasant experience! Very nice authentic food. Cora the server was especially helpful, patient and professional I will recommend this restaurant and make it my regular haunt. Prices reasonable portions good.”

Big smiles, we can’t help it! If you join us and want to share your experience, hit us up on Tripadvisor or Google, we always love to hear from you!

Rhythm Kitchen Catering – Review

We don’t like to toot our own horn too much but every now and again you get a review which puts a smile right across your face and just wants to share. This happened the other day when the rather lovely Femi Keeling, whose wedding we were lucky enough to cater for recently, posted this on Google. Our thanks again to Femi for letting us share her big day and for taking the time to talk up out Jerk skills – we loved it! Here’s what she had to say:

I wanted Caribbean food at my wedding but all of the quotes I received were way outside of my budget. I was pulling my hair out and was very close to having to abandon my plan and do something else. Then I remembered Rhythm Kitchen where I always eat when I’m in Westfield Stratford (BBQ chicken, rice and fried plantain, as you’re asking) and thought I’d see if they do catering. I was so happy to find that they do!

On the wedding day we had BBQ chicken, curry goat, escovitch fish, rice, macaroni pie, fried plantain, coleslaw, and salad. We ate well! Everyone got their belly full! Everyone we talked to on the day (and since) commented on how delicious the food was, and many of them had seconds. Truth is we always remember the food at a wedding (good or bad), and Rhythm Kitchen ensured my guests’ memories will be happy ones. In addition to delivering wonderful cuisine on the day, Rhythm Kitchen were nothing but professional throughout the process. It was stress-free, and I knew I was in capable hands so didn’t need to worry. If you’re in Westfield Stratford, there is only one place to eat, and if you’re looking for a Caribbean caterer for your event you really won’t find better food at a more reasonable rate. I highly recommend them!

Always ‘Appy To See You!

Wah gwaan! Heard about our new Rhythm Kitchen loyalty app, right? The one which gives you points every time you use it  – points which add up to free drinks, food and more?

No? Lucky you! That means you can sign up and get £5 on us to start you off! If you’re up for it you can download for iPhone right here and Android right here – then we get to giving you things!

Jerk Chow Mein Stir Fry

You know how we like to cook, how we like to mix it up – so this month it’s all about what dem call Fusion Cookery, or what we call making something good even better with a likkle bit of Jerk! Here’s how we do:

Ingredients

Pack of medium or fine  egg noodles
3 cloves of garlic
2  thinly cut carrots
2 or 3 x thinly cut spring onion
¼  cabbage shredded or thinly cut
vegetable oil
1  thinly cut green, red and yellow bell peppers
Pre-cooked jerk meat of your choice, cut into bite sizes pieces.

Stir Fry

Heat wok/frying pan on a medium flame then add oil and cook until oil starts to sizzle.

Add ginger, garlic and jerk marinade & fry for 1-2 minutes

Add pre-cooked meat of your choice and cook for approx 3-4 mins Or you can cook from raw ensure the meat is cut thinly and increase cooking time to ensure meat is cooked thoroughly.

Add all the vegetables and cook for 2-3 mins stir to ensure they are evenly cooked.

Add the noodles and cook for a further 2 mins

Add chicken stock and cook for 2-3 minutes and stir continually to ensure everything is coated with the sauce

The noodles should be firm not mushy and the vegetables should be crunchy,  but not hard.

…an’ that’s it!

Black History Month

2017 is the 30th year of Black History Month in the UK and that’s something which can be both celebrated – 30 years of highlighting the contributions made by so many great black men and women – and questioned: if there is to be true equality, why would we separate black history from the rest of world history?

This is the sort of question it’s important to keep hold of but we’re holding firm to celebrating the achievements of people who have been in many cases overshadowed or half-forgotten despite taking humanity forward in so many ways. It also gives us a chance to explore the way the African diaspora has shaped the world, to take a closer look at the way black people have created diverse cultures and influenced so many others. If all this feels a bit heavy, it doesn’t have to – heritage and culture are just other words for living a life informed by the broader community and it can be as simple as the way we mix our spices to an old family recipe or as complex and thought-provoking as the way that black music has shaped pretty much everything you hear on the radio today – and how much of that music was born out of oppression and privation.

We’re going to be spending this month with one eye on the past, shining a light on great black men and women who have gone before us, but the other on the future and how black history is world history. Be great to hear what you think, share with us here or on our social media – this is about all of us!

Rhythm Kitchen is Six!

Now we are six! Can’t believe that the years have flown by so fast – so many good times, friendly faces and of course big-time Jerk! We’ve been here through the London Olympics, seen Stratford blossom in ways we’d never thought possible, gone through tumultuous times shoulder-to-shoulder with all of London and come through stronger.

The one thing that has never changed is the way we do our food. Jerk cooking is a way of life and of all the restaurants in Westfield Stratford you’ll not find any which take it as personally as we do. It’d because we’re a family-run place with just one outlet, not like all the chain places and franchises all around us. The reason it tastes like home cooking is because that’s what it is – there’s no big corporate development kitchen with a team of chefs working on our dishes, we work up our dishes at home in our kitchen! We take what we know, what we learnt growing up and the old recipes from our family and friends and turn them into what we serve up at Rhythm Kitchen. There’s a lot of love in there and it’s all designed to be but one thing – tasty as hell.

We look a likkle different to how we did when we started out, gave ourselves a refresh earlier this year as you might have notices. We took what we’ve learnt over the years and mixed it with our heritage to make something which is just us and just for you – no stereotype of some jerk shack in the Islands which never existed, but a representation of our shared culture and cuisine. We’re proud to be independent, proud to be who we are and where we are and we may be likkle but wi’ tallawah!

Big love to everyone who has joined us over the last six years, it’s only going to get better!

Usain Bolt’s Last Home Race

There are some men who, though when they are born they are the same as every child who comes into the world that day, have within them the power to break the mould, transcend the mundane and let the world know their name. Close to 31 years ago in Sherwood Content Usain Bolt came into the world. That was the last time he was ordinary.

Fast forward three decades and having announced his retirement from professional competition at the end of the current season, Usain ran his last home-crowd run at the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston, Jamaica earlier this month. It was always going to be a special occasion but even the most hardened fan of the fastest man on earth could be forgiven for being surprised by the sheer scale of the emotional outpouring. Opened by prayers and a celebration of the greatest athlete in Jamaican history, from the moment it opened it was no longer the Racer’s Grand Prix but Salute to a Legend.

As a farewell tour for a jubilant home crowd, Bolt did not and could not disappoint – he may have had a terrible start as usual, he may have run the 100m in an average for him) 10.03, but he played to the stands, shadow-boxing and running through his usual pre- and -post race routines to give everyone there a sense that they had truly seen him in all his beautiful pomp and circumstance. And of course, he won.

With a tougher line-up by far than the 29 athletes in Kingston when he comes to London this August for his final World Championships, Usain will have to work as hard as he ever has to go out on a high. For an adoring crowd however, it will be enough to see him do what he does best – own an entire stadium with easy-going grace.

Para-Athletic World Championships

Less than a week after Big Mo runs his last professional race, the Olympic Stadium is lighting up again for ten days of world-class Para-Athletics from 14th-23rd July – one month ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships. This is the first time one city has hosted both championships side-by-side and we love that London, and Stratford, is the place to see the best in the world.

We’ll be cheering on all the competitors but have a special eye on Sophie Hahn. She took up Para Athletics after having watched the 2012 games, getting inspired like a whole load of us did that summer! She’s a sprinter and had so much natural talent and trained so well that by the time Rio came around four years later she was not just on Team GB but won a Gold and a Silver – if that’s not going some, we don’t know what is!

Jamaican Paralympic Association is gearing up for what they’re calling Operation Big Ben, fuelled by the fire and success of Alphanso Cunningham. Man has an arm like a cannon and has been winning big since the 2004 games. In 2012 he took an epic gold in discus and a bronze in javelin to make it a huge games for him and the team. So much so that, inspired by him the Para Athletic movement in Jamaica has grown in size and strength to the point that for the first time it its history, a full team is coming to town. Not bad when you think that Jamaica has about 1/20th the population of the UK! They’ll be bringing the thunder and we’ll be cheering them on all the way!

Muller Anniversary Games

Can it really have been five whole years since Stratford first became the centre of the world and the Olympic waggon rolled into town? It was then we first opened our doors to serve up the best Jerk cooking in Stratford – that’s why we’ve kept on serving it!

Time flies but we got the best of the world here again on July 9th for the Muller Anniversary Games. It’s going to be a brilliant day of top-class sport with too many great ones to mention but it’s Mo Farrah’s last season – we don’t want to miss a last chance to see one of British sport’s all-time greats.

If you’ve got tickets and need a little something to keep you in the mood to cheer on the best in the world, we know that there are plenty of restaurants in Stratford but only one Rhythm Kitchen! We’ve been told* that Jerk cooking is the food of champions! Seeing as it’s over the weekend we’ll have a couple of specials on just for you so you can fuel up just right. See you this weekend!