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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK
Reggae chef stays close to roots
By Martin Edwards
BBC News, London

Levi Roots
Levi Roots first started catering at the Notting Hill Carnival
Levi Roots has more to celebrate than just turning 50.

The south London entrepreneur is gearing up for the first anniversary of selling the winning formula of his Reggae Reggae sauce, which he had started selling from a stall at Notting Hill Carnival.

"This will be the biggest carnival for us," he said. "This is payback time, when we give back to the people of carnival. Reggae sauce will be flowing fully this year."

Last year, he sold about 4,000 bottles of the sauce from his stall in Westbourne Park Grove - and that was even before the success of Dragons' Den.

"For years, we just put the sauce on our food. Even other stallholders would use it so it was already popular even before Dragons' Den. It was stupid not to have done it before. We could've been rich a long time ago."

Worldwide interest

But success is better late than never and now the reggae singer is being offered opportunities from around the world.

Mr Roots said: "I'm getting e-mails from Italian food manufacturers who want to use a version of my sauce for ravioli.

"Other people from India want to try something similar for chapattis. The possibilities are endless."

After impressing businessmen and women on the BBC programme Dragons' Den, Mr Roots won a six-month contract with the supermarket chain Sainsbury's to supply his Reggae Reggae sauce in March.

Since then, he estimates he has sold about a million bottles of his Caribbean marinade.

I want to appeal to my people here as well as trying to enthuse Middle England to the whole Caribbean food market
Levi Roots
His contract with Sainsbury's ends on 1 September, at which point other supermarket chains will be able to stock his brand.

Four more sauces are due to come into production very soon.

From making his sauce in his tiny Brixton flat with the help of his seven children, it is now mass produced by a team of 32 people working in a factory in Wales.

But success has not affected Mr Roots, he says.

He opened his first Caribbean restaurant three months ago on the Winstanley Estate in Clapham, south London.

The area has a notorious reputation - not exactly where you might expect a budding businessman to launch his growing empire.

Levi Roots
Levi wants to broaden the Caribbean food market
"It was a very conscious decision to set up here. I want to give something back. I want to bring it to my people first, not somewhere like Hampstead," he said.

"I want to show young black people that there's different things out there besides kicking a football or doing music.

"We have Tim Campbell (Apprentice winner), the Black Farmer. I want to show these kids that these people are successful."

It is all part of his two-fold mission to act as a role model for aspiring black youths while simultaneously bringing a taste of the Caribbean to a broader consumer base.

He said: "I want to appeal to my people here as well as trying to enthuse Middle England to the whole Caribbean food market."

But he will never forget where it all started from.

"I will always have a stall at carnival. Whether it's me or my kids working it, it's a meeting point for so many," he explained.

"I wouldn't want to take that away from people."

Levi Roots gives a tour of Notting Hill

Dragons' Den: Where are they now?
26 Jul 07 |  Business
Does luck trump skill in success?
21 May 07 |  Business
TV sauce man threat over factory
28 Mar 07 |  South East Wales


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