What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn't decided to go on Dragon's Den?
I started off as a musician and it's still my number one passion - alongside food! My company's slogan is "put some music in your food" and that's my ethos. I love food and I love music, so if the food wasn't happening, I'd be doing the music.
You cite your grandmother as being your biggest inspiration. What was her philosophy and what valuable life lessons did she teach you?
I used to help her as a young boy in Jamaica. She would send me out to the garden to pick fresh fruit, herbs and spices which she used in her cooking, and I still use them in my cooking today. She taught me traditional methods of cooking and traditional recipes from Jamaica. I've since gone on to discover other flavours and methods used in and around the Caribbean but I'll always be grateful for the wonderful times I spent cooking with her as a child.
What are your three kitchen secrets?
1. Always wash rice really well under cool running water, until the water runs clear. This gets rid of the starch and means that the rice will stay fluffy and separated once cooked.
2. You can really liven up every day by using a range of hearty herbs and spices. For example, adding a whole chilli whilst cooking will add flavour but not heat; adding a cinnamon stick, all spice, bay leaf and turmeric to rice while it's cooking will give it real depth of flavour; use fresh herbs at the last minute before serving to give the dish a really fresh lift.
3. Always have some music on! I love to listen to good tunes while I'm cooking. It inspires me!
What is your favourite ingredient and why?
My favourite ingredient would have to be pimento (allspice). It's such a versatile berry with bags of flavour. It can be used in savoury and sweet dishes. I grind up small handfuls of berries to release the good stuff and use it in pretty much everything - especially BBQ marinades.
The Levi Roots food range continues to grow. What is it about your products that people can't get enough of?
I think the appeal is that my food is familiar yet unusual. Educating the UK about Caribbean cuisine has been key to our success. The food needs to be authentic but not scary. I think people's tastes have changed as everyone travels so much these days, they are
exposed to a wide range of ingredients and cooking styles and they've got a real appetite for something new and different.
Tell us about your School of Life tour.
Lowdahmercy! I launched my School of Life tour in March and we've had an overwhelming response. I have been visiting schools, colleges, universities and prisons for the last six years and I wanted to raise awareness
of this because there are still so many people to reach. The aim of the tour is to meet young people and encourage them to follow their dreams and succeed in life. I cover everything from my own story to business tips, motivational talks and
encouraging healthy eating. These young people are the next generation and I'm doing what I can to help them develop into confifident, well-rounded adults.
You recently decided to close down your restaurant, Papine Jerk Centre in Battersea, London, to focus on "big business". Was this a decision made with a heavy heart?
Of course. Papine is so many things to me. It's been a really difficult decision. I am so proud of what we achieved there. We never made a profit - but that wasn't the intention. Papine was for the community and it worked really well. I took the decision to close Papine because my other business is growing at such a rapid pace and as a result, I am unable to give my time freely to run it. But I do feel that something positive will come from this - an opportunity is now there for the next Levi Roots to take my place and they will absolutely have my support.
What is your greatest love - music or food?
Both - I can't choose between the two! I can't have one without the other. They go hand in hand!
Finally, please could you share your favourite recipe with our readers and explain why you like it so much.
The recipe that I have chosen is Lime Marmalade, Rum and Chilli Poussins from my new book, Grill it with Levi (published by RandomHouse). This dish makes me feel so summery - it's packed full of flavour and is ideal for BBQs on a sunny day (or cooked in the oven if it's raining!)
& Chilli Poussins
For the marinade
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 chilli, halved, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Grated zest and juice of 4 limes
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground allspice
100ml dark or light rum
2 tbsp olive oil
For the glaze
150g lime marmalade
2 red chillies, halved, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp clear honey
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper
1. First make the marinade. Pound
the garlic, chilli, thyme, lime zest,
salt and pepper and allspice together
with amortar and pestle. Add the wet
ingredients and combine well. Make
slits in the birds in places where they
won't be seen - between the legs and
the body, for example - and coat well
with the marinade. Make sure the
insides of the birds are coated as
well. Cover with clingfilm and chill
for about six hours, turning the
birds every so often.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/
Gas 4. Lift the poussins out of the
marinade and transfer them to a
roasting tin. Season with salt and
pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.
Remove the poussins from the
oven and leave them to cool a little
- if you put the glaze on while
they're hot it will just run off.
3. Meanwhile, make the glaze by
vigorously stirring everything
together. You need to use some
elbow grease here to break down the
marmalade. Spread the glaze all over
the birds, inside and out, and
barbecue for 10 minutes, turning
every so often and brushing with
more glaze. Check for doneness -
the juices between the legs and body
should run clear, with no trace of
pink. Brush with a final coat of glaze
and serve immediately.
Article taken from July 2013 issue of Stir it up magazine.