Ever since the Wind-rush back in June of 1948, where 493 of the first West Indians landed on these British shores to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War, there has been a love affair with the style of cooking that the first settlers brought with them.
The Caribbean is made up of many different cultures. Throughout the 17th century settlers predominantly from Asia, France, Portugal, Spain and Africa came with their own styles of cooking and over time the styles fused together to create the Caribbean taste we have today.
From Jerk Chicken, Ackee and Salt fish to the famed Guinness Punch an array of tropical spices and herbs, in modern times called Soul food; West Indians cook from the heart and take their time to prepare their meals.
West Indian Cuisine is some way behind Chinese and Indian cuisine when it comes to being the nations favourite take away. The latest survey taken by the Commerce of Caribbean Cuisine showed the value of Caribbean restaurants in the UK at £21 million. That may sound a big number but it’s a fraction compared to the £1 billion valuation of the UKs favourite Indian restaurants.
Caribbean restaurants take up a mere 2% of the ethnic food trade in the UK country, compared to Indian at 48% and Chinese at 30% that’s a very small percentage.
“It’s about opening up to a new market. Finding news ways to market and sell the food”. Says Mr Stevens, Owner of Mr Jerks in the West Ends Soho “I often get told West Indian food is too heavy and you can’t snack on it, like English people like to do” Mr Stevens continues, “ This made me come up with the concept of a Jerk Chicken Burger or barbeque Chicken burger, which may or may not take off, but I think Caribbean restaurants has to diversify in order to at least maintain our current market share”.
“There are no celebrity Chefs that specialize in Caribbean food, yet we see Indian and Chinese Chefs on TV all the time”. Most West Indian restaurants want the food to feel like it comes from home, so essentially they want to use a restaurant Kitchen like a Kitchen in the Home and economically this does not work.
Supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s have started to sell Patties with different flavours as an attempt to breach the mainstream and have even launched a Halal range.
The recent success of Levi Roots, who successfully went on the BBC’s Dragons Den to get £50,000 funding for his Caribbean reggae reggae Sauce also goads well for the future Caribbean cuisine in the UK. His sauces are in all of the main supermarket chains and he has recently released a microwave package meal range.
On the whole the Caribbean food industry needs a shake up and some re-vamping. “We need more Professional Chefs and different ways in which we present our food to the public” Wayne continues “Caribbean food is the best the World just don’t know it yet”.
In a survey we asked many people what their favourite Caribbean dish was and whether or not they would welcome fast food style jerk chicken Burgers as Londoner’s are always on the go and like to eat in kind.
We got mixed answers, most people thought that Caribbean food could not really pass as fast food because it simply isn’t and if you try to dumb it down you will lose crucial elements of the food.
Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas and Macaroni cheese came out as the clear winners in our favorite Caribbean dish pole. just behind it came Curry Mutton and every body seems to love a bit of fried plantain.