Croydon Jamaican restaurant relishes its place at heart of community

By Winnie Adeyemi, Director, AFRICA: Seen & Heard

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:

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.

You can check out the sustainability stories of three more Black British foodservice providers here.

YahSo Bar & Grill, 442 Whitehorse Rd, Thornton Heath, Croydon CR7 8SB

Tel: 020 3621 7621

Instagram: @yahsogrill

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