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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!

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!

Guinness Punch

There’s nothing guaranteed to get a party started like a good punch – and there’s nothing better for a true taste of Jamaica than a proper Guinness Punch! There are plenty recipes out there but his is the way we do:
1 Can Draught Guinness
1 Bottle Nigerian Guinness (Stronger flavour)
2 Can Vanilla Nourishment
101 Grams Condense mill Approx 1/3 of a can
40 grams Vanilla Essence (dash )
Pinch of Nutmeg
25 grams Sugar
1 shot of White Rum (optional)

Pour all items into a jug mix well together chill and serve over ice and enjoy! Responsibly of course…

New Kitchen, Same Great Rhythm

We opened our doors for the first time as a part of the opening crew for Westfield Stratford – we’ve been here as long as it has and we’ve loved serving up fresh Jerk cooking here for the last five years. That is quite a long time though and we thought it was time to take a fresh look at ourselves, give the place a bit of a make-over.

We know ourselves and our cooking even better now so we wanted to reflect that as well as references the heritage of Jerk cooking in a more subtle and refined way than some other Caribbean restaurants do. It’s not just the look, we’ve been working hard in the kitchen too – we’re stull serving up classic Jerk with secret dry-rub and marinade recipes, but we’ve got some new favourites too – Pepper Prawns and a special Jerk Salmon.

The Jerkfather says: “This refresh reflects the way we feel about our cooking and how it relates to both British Caribbean heritage and the Britain of today. We’ve taken the traditions of great food and hospitality and brought them bang up to date. We’re so proud of all the work that’s gone into it from a great team and are looking forward to serving up fine Jerk to the people of Stratford again!”