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Levi Roots: 'I've had my cake and eaten a huge chunk too'

TIME TO CELEBRATE: Levi Roots celebrates his birthday today (Jun 24) and the tenth anniversary of his Reggae Reggae sauce launch in August

MY REGGAE Reggae Sauce is celebrating its tenth birthday and it’s also my personal birthday too, lowdahmercy!

Reflecting on those years brings plenty of joyful times and some painful ones too. But still, what a ride I’ve had!

My journey began in a small village community called Content in Clarendon, Jamaica.

My family moved to the UK, and eventually sent for my siblings and me to come over too. At the age of 12, I could just about spell my name, but inspired by my grandmother’s teachings and comforted by my mother, I always felt I could achieve whatever I wanted. But having to deal with a whole new life experience outside of Jamaica, I found it difficult to focus.

It wasn’t until I turned 46 years old that I reached my full potential. That was when I started my business plan and then launched Reggae Reggae Sauce at the Notting Hill carnival in August 2006.

My experience on the BBC television show Dragon’s Den in 2007 is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and the closest I’ve been to the edge of making a complete fool of myself, and for that matter, the entire black community as well. If I had ever doubted the existence of God it was proven to me right there where I stood sweating like a pig and in the embarrassing position of almost becoming the worst loser in the programme’s history.

In all honesty, my pitch on Dragon’s Den, which has been labelled as ‘legendary’, was far from perfect. It was perhaps one of the worst. Everything went wrong for me on that day, but I was just being me, and of course the panel loved the sauce – it was enough to slay the dragons and set me on my way.

Finally my moment had come. You could call it luck but I believe you have to make your own luck.

My life’s journey has seen me meeting and working with some of the most inspiring establishments and wonderful people I could only ever dreamed about. From the outset I was accepted into the massive world of foodies, entrepreneurs and academics, where I was encouraged to relish in my Jamaican heritage, allowing me to be at my best.

The money I got from the investors to help build my business was not the key thing but having someone like Dragon Den’s Peter Jones to guide and mentor me was key.

So what advice would I give my younger self who was just trying to become a businessman? Get yourself ready for business. You should explore and network, stay on top of your finances and try to build a team of like-minded people around yourself.

So yes, I have had my cake and eaten a huge chunk out of it. But if yu tink mi did dun? No sah mi jus a come!

More love LR

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Recipe Chocolate & Lime cake

INGREDIENTS

For the cake
l175g (6oz) butter
l175g (6oz) soft dark brown sugar
l3 free-range eggs
l135g (4¾oz) self raising flour
l4 tbsp cocoa powder

For the candied lime rind
lGrated rind of 3 limes
l50g (1¾oz) caster sugar
l4 tbsp water

For the buttercream
l100g (3½oz) unsalted butter, slightly softened
l200g (7oz) icing sugar
lGrated rind of 3 limes, plus extra to decorate, and the juice of 2–3 (depending on the size of the limes – you need enough juice to make a soft, spreadable icing)
lDark chocolate, roughly chopped, to decorate

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas mark 6. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder. If the mixture is very stiff, stir in a tablespoon of milk (or rum!). Pour into a greased and lined 20cm (8in) diameter, 2cm (¾in) deep cake tin and bake for 35–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake is puffed up and golden. Turn the cake out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.

2. Meanwhile, make the candied lime rind. Place the caster sugar and water into a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lime rind and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until the sugar syrup has reduced and the lime rind is soft and looks a little like marmalade. Sprinkle the lime rind over a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and
leave to cool and harden.

3. To make the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar together, using an electric mixer or by hand (start off gently or the icing sugar will fly everywhere), until pale and light, but don’t let it get too fluffy – you want a fairly solid buttercream for this cake. Add the lime juice and rind and beat again. Chill in the refrigerator until the buttercream is firm but still spreadable.

4. Spread the buttercream over the top of the cake using a palette knife. Decorate with the candied lime rind and dark chocolate.

(Recipe taken from Sweet published by Octopus Publishing Group)

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