Camden Black-owned businesses: Roger Shakes of Roger’s Kitchen

Camden Black-owned businesses: Roger Shakes of Roger’s Kitchen

Camden Black-owned businesses: Roger Shakes of Roger’s Kitchen 1920 1280 Isabelle O'Carroll

Black Pound Day is a monthly event that aims to encourage support for Black-owned businesses and bring about a shift in power and address inequalities. It was launched by So Solid Crew’s Swiss in June 2020 inresponse to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, as a way to create long-lasting impact and increase visibility of Black-owned businesses.

In the first of a series focusing on Black-owned businesses in Camden, we spoke to Roger Shakes of Roger’s Kitchen, serving up Jamaican classics with flair. Roger grew up in Westmoreland, Jamaica before moving to London in his twenties and starting out. In his words, he tells us about his love for cooking and running a restaurant.

“I like to cook for people, to give people the good flavour and taste of Caribbean food, because it’s difficult to find good Caribbean food. Even at the age of 11 or 12, I was really excited for cooking. In the Caribbean you had to cook by yourself, you grow up a bit rough. You have to fight for yourself. So, we used to cook this thing, the easiest thing to cook is rice and tinned mackerel, back in Jamaica they call tinned mackerel flash out.”

“A lot of people travel two hours to come eat curry goat.”

“I love mango fruit! When I go back to Jamaica I always eat mango. Fresh mango, that was my favorite fruit when I was growing up. I come from the countryside, you just get it off the tree. Breadfruit, obviously and avocado, all those things, it’s always there.

I learnt cooking from my grandparents back home, I grew up with both of them, I was so lucky they lived so close. So you learn that flavour from your grandparents. Nowadays people use a lot of seasonings, back in those days people grew up poor, they’d just have onion, thyme, scallion and a little salt, and they put it together and it tastes good, it’s super fresh food.”

“When I come here, my cousin owned Mango Rooms. I never knew him, and I come here and I met him and he give me a job, the first job I got was washing up plates. And from there I ended up head chef. I think coming to this country and starting to cook, you see how much people appreciate it, you love to do it.

I’ve been in Camden for 20 years now, everywhere I go, people know me. It’s like a home to me. The characters in Camden, you have the hippy crowd, the tourists, the shops, the rich people in Hampstead, Belsize Park. The music too – Jazzie B is a friend.”

“I’m pretty easygoing. A lot of people don’t know I’m the owner because I’m out there, cooking, washing, doing everything. Some people say ‘who’s Roger?’ and I tell them I’m Roger and they’re surprised! If I’m not there I’m not really happy because I like to see what’s going on. It’s consistency, I have a customer who has been coming 20years and she says the jerk chicken is the same, so that’s the thing I love. If I told you all the compliments you’d have enough, you’d be fed up of me! Saturday night is a busy night, even when food takes time to come, people still compliment, the atmosphere is nice, everybody is just happy.”

“A lot of people are still in the dark, they’re used to stew chicken and curry chicken. You still need to reach out to a lot of Black people where they really could come and enjoy fine dining Caribbean food.

My favourite dish is curry goat. That’s a big seller, people love it. A lot of people travel two hours to come eat curry goat. It takes a long time to cook, it could take up to three hours. I could close my eyes and cook curry goat, because I’ve been cooking it for so many years, you know?”

Try it for yourself

You can visit Roger’s Kitchen at 71 Camden Road, Camden, London, NW1 9EU.

Photo credits: Jenna Selby

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