The theme for Black History Month 2022 is ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’.
Great Britain’s foodservice providers of African descent come from a diversity of nations and cultures. They include restaurateurs, caterers and street food sellers who provide diners and customers with cuisine offering tastes of the African continent, North and South America and islands within the Caribbean and Indian Oceans.
As well as sharing unique multi-ethnic gastronomy, Black-British foodservice providers integrate traditional practices with modern processes. Their approaches and cuisine can inform wider sustainable food systems, climate action and public health strategies.
Throughout Black History Month, AFRICA: Seen & Heard and the Sustainable Restaurant Association have gathered the stories of Black-British foodservice providers across the country.
Reducing and repurposing food waste, ensuring carbon neutrality and feeding communities well were found to be within the DNA of their food heritages as much as their brand missions.
We shine a spotlight on some of the business owners interviewed. Their unique insights provide the Food Made Good Community with food for thought and commercial exploration:
YAHSO BAR & GRILL
Jamaican cuisine is the most represented Black food culture in the UK. The British-Jamaican community is comprised of over 300,000 citizens some of whom are third generation descendants of the post-war Windrush era migrants.
With communities well established across the UK since the 1950s, the signature tastes of Jamaica – including pimento and scotch bonnet spiced jerk chicken and curry goat, coconut milk infused rice and peas and nutmeg-laced Guinness punch – are available at restaurants and takeaways from London to Manchester, Birmingham to Bristol and Cardiff to Glasgow.
From the West African agrarian societies to the plantation system, maroon settlements and provision grounds (poor quality plots set aside for the enslaved to grow their own food) to family-owned farms and British allotments, Jamaicans of African descent have always cultivated or celebrated seasonal fruit and vegetables as a mainstay of local diets.
British-Jamaican restaurateurs, including Jamaican-born Andrew Dell who co-owns Croydon’s YahSo Bar & Grill with his partner Yvonne Clarke, ensure that locally grown produce is an integral part of their business models.
As well as reducing the financial cost and environmental impact of transport, locally sourced produce provides them with a strategy to prevent food waste.
Whilst preparing to open a second branch of YahSo in Clapham, South West London and create his One Planet Plate dish, Andrew Dell shared his commitment to reducing his restaurants’ carbon footprint and supporting his community:
“We use a lot of callaloo (a tropical green leaf vegetable). The guys from the allotment provide us with a lot. They are just walking distance away, but they ride here on their bicycles and we buy it from them daily.
“In the kitchen we use the callaloo to make a soup and if we have too much, we turn that into a callaloo spring roll. If somebody wants Callaloo and Saltfish, the callaloo will already be there, so it changes use along the line. We don’t waste much.
“At the present moment, I’m looking into partnerships with care homes to make the traditional food that patients grew up on healthier. Caribbean people use a lot of oil, so we try to stay away from the oil and cook with water instead. We do the dishes they grew up on but with less sugar as well as less salt.
We do a lot of work for Gateway House that have around 20-30 care homes including the Maudsley Hospital.”
Yahso encourages foodservice providers to engage more with their communities. Purchasing local produce provides growers with reliable income and they can employ more people. Buying from farms that employ people with special needs and disabilities delivers additional social impact. Black foodservice providers should explore providing cultural meal services to health trusts, private and local authority care homes across the country.
YahSo Bar & Grill, 442 Whitehorse Rd, Thornton Heath, Croydon CR7 8SB. Tel: 020 3621 7621 Instagram: @yahsogrill
Evidence suggests that those of African Caribbean heritage may be more sensitive to the impact of salt on blood pressure. This is a biological rather than a consumption issue, which increases the chance of developing high blood pressure and having a stroke.
Tanya Marie, a plant-based chef and caterer of Jamaican and Vincentian heritage is preparing to move her online restaurant experience Neozentee Encore to dining premises in Palmers Green.
Whilst sharing her journey and next step, she explained the challenges the Black community face to eat well. She has reduced salt across her menu to ensure customers will eat healthily:
“We don’t need as much salt or the typical West Indian/African seasoning (products which can contain a lot of additives and trans fats). You don’t need to rely on these seasonings if you use herbs and fresh ingredients.
We don’t need as much salt as we think. I create tasty dishes adding nowhere near as much salt as I grew up with and don’t rely on Everyday Seasoning.
Salt doesn’t play a role in the dishes I create. When I created my One Planet Plate dish “Plantain and Callaloo Cup”, I put salt at the end as you cannot take it away if you add too much.
People are often unaware of how much salt is in everything such as stock. If you wait until the end, it is often not needed.
The salt and sugar that we intake as Black people with diabetes running heavily through us as a culture, it’s embedded. I reduced using sugar as well as salt too. I’ve found a way to work around it and retain the flavour.”
EATING TO LIVE
Natural seasonings reduce the need for salt and add infinite variety to plant-based menus.
Neozentee proves that traditional dishes can be mindfully reinterpreted to make them healthier without losing authenticity. Plant-based diets and healthy lifestyles are increasingly prioritised. Hiring creative Black-British chefs who integrate their heritage produce expands the development and repertoire of Modern British cuisine.
Eat Genesis, 60 Aldermans Hill, London N13 4PP
For November 2022 opening updates, email: email@example.com Instagram: @neozentee @eatgenesis
People of Sierra Leonean descent – most notably Kru seamen employed by the Royal Navy who settled in port cities – have made Britain their home since the 1800s. Their cuisine remains relatively unknown across the country, amongst the wider Black community and the general population.
Freetown born and raised Maria Bradford is a Kent resident and founder of Shwen Shwen.
Whilst the ‘fancy’ private catering service serves dinner parties, corporate events and weddings, the brand also produces chilli sauces, soft drinks and has its own prosecco label.
Maria gave an insight into how Shwen Shwen keeps their supply chain local. She feeds the British Sierra Leonean community well and through her culinary art acts as an ambassador for the often misunderstood nation:
“We did have a war, it is over now. Let’s focus on the positive things that are happening there!
Sierra Leonean food is one of the healthiest in West Africa as we eat lots of leaves. We do eat meat, but we eat lots of fish, seeds, grains and nuts, especially peanuts. The things that some people say are not healthy such as palm oil, I have very strong opinions on!”
AFRICA: Seen & Heard agree having undertaken research into the ingredient for use in the food and cosmetic industries over the years. Palm oil is indigenous to West Africa and could become the world’s most efficient and sustainable oil if ethically and organically produced in its natural environment. It is a rich source of vitamin E and has played a major part in West African pharmacopoeias and immune system health for millennia.
The taste of tradition prepared with panache and public health in mind is proving successful for Shwen Shwen:
“It has been very well received from other West Africans especially and non-Whites as well. In my private dining, it is a fair split between other Africans and White people who are interested in my food. Sierra Leoneans are interested more in the Afro-fusion things I do as they’re already familiar with the ingredients and want to see how I use them.
TRADITION WITH A TWIST
Shwen Shwen’s sophisticated dessert of spiced rum roasted pineapple, cassava and coconut crumbs with toasted coconut ice-cream.
When it comes to the traditional foods, White people are more interested. They want to know more and experience the culture.”
Maria, who has just won the African Food trophy at the inaugural Be Inclusive Hospitality Spotlight Awards is keen to reduce her carbon footprint. She is realistic about the challenges:
“When you’re doing African food, the problem that you have is that you are using exotic ingredients that are coming from afar. What I’ve been trying to do is combine them with local produce, as I have fantastic farm shops around me. I work with local producers and blend a bit of my culture into my new home.”
Passionately Bissap blends seasonal strawberries with hibiscus flowers and the Purple Haze drink is a mélange of locally grown lavender and coconut water.
Shwen Shwen leads the way in changing narratives and promoting national cuisines from lesser represented West African communities. Fusing local produce to define new tastes that appeal to multiethnic audiences is good for the environment and business.
Shwen Shwen, www.shwenshwen.com Instagram: @shwenshwenbymaria
Enquiries and Bookings: email firstname.lastname@example.org tel +44(0)7984259886
The Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands is Africa’s smallest country. An estimated 98,000 citizens live across eight main islands.
Seychellois cuisine features local fish, fruit and spices and is influenced by East Africa, France, Great Britain, China and India.
The nation’s global diaspora is small, and its unique cuisine is underrepresented internationally. London’s Kaz Kreol and Bournemouth’s Seychelles Gastronomy were popular restaurants serving authentic Creole cuisine.
There are currently no Seychellois restaurants operating in the UK.
Thankfully Chloe Pothin, the owner of Seysouls Kitchen keeps the island’s culinary traditions alive and thriving.
She was an integral part of the Seychelles’ gastro-diplomacy presentation at the National Geographic Traveller Food Festival at London’s Business Design Centre in July 2022.
As a private chef and caterer, Chloe supports her community by delivering authentic Seychellois cuisine at their events and aims to provide employment opportunities within her own restaurant one day. She currently hosts restaurant pop-ups and on Sundays a range of diverse customers flock to her East London street food stall.
Culinary culture is an intangible heritage and asset that promotes experience, creates memories and nurtures connections that can boost food and beverage exports and tourism.
Chloe shared some insights into her success as a sustainable foodservice provider. She contributes to society by feeding people well with a distinctly Seychellois flavour:
“Seychelles cuisine consists of a lot of fish dishes which are usually cooked several ways from grilling, steamed, salted and smoked. You will also find a nice curry on the islands. A lot of these dishes are accompanied with rice, chutneys and salads.
“You can find a range of freshly made chutneys in the islands, such as pumpkin chutney, aubergine chutney, bitter gourd chutney and papaya chutney. The chutneys consist of fresh green fruit or vegetables, grated and mixed with some spices and oil.
“Seychellois food has some dishes that give us nutrients such as lentils. The locals usually use a small orange one or green lentils, it is good for protein and fibre and has benefits for the heart, as it consists of folic acid, fibre and potassium. Lentils have other benefits too.”
Seysouls Kitchen’s inspires foodservice providers to source their fish responsibly and cook it in healthier ways. You can also consider the nutritional value and health benefits of each raw ingredient when creating a new recipe. Chutneys provide a delicious way to prevent food waste by transforming imperfect vegetables or overripe fruit into value-adding condiments that compliment signature or new menu dishes.
Chatsworth Road Market, Lower Clapton, London E5 0LH (Sundays,10:00 – 16:00).
Instagram: @seysoulskitchen Facebook: Seysoulskitchen
Email: email@example.com Telephone: + 44 (0)7535 115947
As Black History Month 2022 draws to a close, it is clear that its theme ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words‘ is significant to the UK’s Black foodservice providers.
AFRICA: Seen & Heard and the Sustainable Restaurant Association began our campaign with a comprehensive study of the diverse food history and cultures across the global African diaspora.
Sourcing, Society and Environment are the three pillars of the Food Made Good Framework.
Across time and geographic space, sustainable food practices were found to be inherent and holistically implemented throughout African descent communities.
From early humans in Central Africa 90,000 years ago whose use of the Semiliki harpoon responsibly stewarded riverine resources to the San Bushmen of South Africa’s Northern Cape whose hunting and gathering food culture remains based around local and seasonal produce.
In the UK, we found that Black chefs, restaurateurs and food service providers represent a past-present-future continuum that preserves cultural heritage and can inform sustainability practices within the industry.
Nigerian restaurants routinely incorporate the fifth quarter from spicy chicken gizzards, stewed cow’s feet and roast goat heads. Research suggests that eating offal could decrease meat emissions by 14%. Reintroducing traditional British dishes such as slow-braised oxtails, devilled kidneys and sweetbreads on toast would provide diners with lost tastes of UK history whilst boosting profit margins and lower carbon credentials.
Serving more vegetables was a key objective of all Caribbean British-owned businesses we engaged.
Their One Planet Plate entries tended to be vegan or vegetarian. Dishes included traditional Caribbean ingredients that inspire British restaurants to widen their repertoires and be more inclusive.
Black chefs tend to bring a fresh perspective, broader material knowledge and impeccable flavour profiles to the table. Providing equal opportunities for employment and promotion improves innovation and productivity whilst developing the success of individuals and the foodservice business.
Black restaurateurs shared a strong commitment to giving back to their communities by integrating cooking options that promoted health and wellbeing or directly tackled non-communicable diseases. They also strongly support local growers to reduce the need for imported produce.
Chefs from lesser-known Black communities including the Sierra-Leonean, Seychellois and Vincentian source fairly-traded produce from their original nations, buy high welfare meat and dairy products and prioritise recycling to eliminate waste-to-landfill.
Whilst traversing ancient African agriculture, the New World food crop exchanges and modern food preparation and consumption, we identified the many gifts and sustainable practices that Black food culture has given to the culinary world.
We thank the UK’s Black foodservice providers whose stories lead by example: a little extra effort delivers positive impact and can deliver progress and inclusivity within the industry and society.
TRY or be inspired by a traditional Jamaican recipe using goat offal. Research suggests that eating offal could decrease meat emissions by 14%.
UNDERSTAND why African-Americans are switching to a plant-based diet. The UK’s Black community suffer from many of the same medical issues and are following a similar healthy-eating trend that restaurants are adapting to:
DISCOVER the Sierra Leonean lobster enticing international tourists. Across the world, good food is proving the ultimate cultural ambassador:
LEARN about the transition to Sustainable Fisheries in the Seychelles:
© W. O. Adeyemi/ AFRICA: Seen & Heard Ltd and africaseenheard.wordpress.com, 2022. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to W. O. Adeyemi, AFRICA: Seen & Heard and africaseenheard.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.