Esme: Joining us today, we have the brains behind the business and Mrs Buzzrock herself. Hi Farida, how are you doing?
Farida: Hello. I’ve not been called that before, but I’ll take it, thank you.
Esme: Well, you needed a worthy intro, so I thought I’d have to do something. Let’s get straight into it. I want to go back to the beginning so, tell me just the story of Buzzrock himself.
Farida: Buzzrock came here back in the 1970s. When the Jamaicans were called for after the World War, many of them came and left their children in Jamaica. That’s what happened to him. He was finally brought over when he was 27. He did various jobs. He’s led a very vibrant life but, what he didn’t believe about himself was that he was an excellent cook. And, after many years of convincing him and saying to him, ‘You’ve got this talent,’ he believed me and we started our first Caribbean carnival, which was the Moss Side one, with just a jerk pan. A traditional oil barrel that’s cut in half, and it dawned on us after that days of trading how much people loved Jamaican jerk chicken.
Esme: Everyone loves jerk chicken. I’m sure lots of people listening right now are thinking, ‘Ah, just some jerk chicken and some rice and peas just to go alongside would be delicious.’ Now, Buzzrock’s his name, Buzzrock is the restaurant. Why the name Buzzrock?
Farida: Again, another traditional thing for people who are, like, my husband’s age, nearly 70. They all have nicknames. So, nobody actually knows what is my husband’s name. But from Jamaica, he was called-, he had two names. He had Licks and he had Buzzrocks and Buzzrocks because somebody says his dumplings were a bit too hard I think. And I’ve always known him as Buzzrock and I think the whole of Manchester knows him as Buzzrock. So, I said to him, ‘Look, Buzzrocks is a really good name. Everybody knows you by that.’ And the other thing we liked about it, it doesn’t actually say what it is we do. We quite like the anonymity.
Esme: Yeah, well, I think it’s an interesting name, like you say. I’ve actually visited the shop now and it is-, it, it’s just on the corner. It’s just unassuming and then you go in. Bang. The smells, ah. The food, everything about it is just amazing. But, I’ve only been that one time but, what does a typical day at Buzzrocks look like? What are the hours like? The staff? The customers?
Farida: He starts at five, goes to the market, brings his items, prepares them up for the next day and by six o’clock they start cooking. And that involves, like, making dumplings, making the wraps, making so much that goes on. And we actually don’t open the shop till twelve o’clock and I think people just have no concept. They think that magically, this food just appears because we just have this-, just in time, make enough that it’s fresh and that it’s tasty. We don’t carry over any food other than what we’ve cooked on that day and what we serve, and what we sell.
Esme: We’ve been speaking just a little bit before and you were saying that a lot of the food that you make isn’t traditionally Jamaican, as such. You have-, you’ve put a spin on it to make it, kind of, more friendly for everyone. Talk about that.
Farida: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting when people refer to Caribbean food. People say to me, ‘Oh, that must be really good for your community,’ and I go, ‘Well yeah, it is good for the community, but actually, do you ask that same question of an Italian pizza shop or a Chinese shop?’ And then they look at me quite vaguely and I go, ‘Well that’s just it,’ because they don’t necessarily cater for their own community. They’re catering for the wider community. And I think that we learned very early on that we would want to make the experience of Buzzrocks open for all.
Esme: Food is a community and the food is something that you can share.
Farida: Absolutely. There’s a saying that families that pray together stay together. Buzzrocks is families that eat at Buzzrocks together will definitely stay together.
Esme: Is there one dish that everyone, kind of, seems to go for? What’s the famous Buzzrock dish?
Farida: I think the Buzzrocks’ jerk chicken special, that has to be the synonymous. That has to be the thing that people always come in and order. But what’s interesting is we have something that’s quite, really more a Mancunian, Northern thing. And, in our food shop, we have something called half and half. It goes back to the old days of chips and rice. So now we have that traditionally with our Caribbean food.
Esme: I just want to talk about-, obviously you’ve already talked about having a business is just a huge responsibility and huge pressure. But, would you say there’s been any struggles or, just like, hard times at Buzzrock, or the business has been through itself?
Farida: Ooh. Yeah. I mean, unfortunately, back in 1998, my husband was subjected to a very serious armed robbery and that affected him and for eight months, our business couldn’t function or operate and at one point, we thought we were never gonna be able to reopen. And he came back with a full vigour to keep the mantra, keep it going. We’ve had other struggles where we’ve tried to get premises and we’ve not been successful in premises. We think some of that’s been based on what people’s perceptions are of black businesses and, you know, I’m a firm believer, you have to fight for what’s right and if you believe that what you’re doing is right, and you have to go for it. You know? That will lead you to the right road and to the direction in which you want to acquire the result that you most need. So, for the shop that we’re in, that was empty for eight years and we had to fight for eight years to finally get ourselves in there.
Esme: Definitely. Definitely. And I feel like, to end this interview, we’ve got here. This show is all about Manchester and why we love Manchester. What do you love about Manchester? About Mancunians?
Farida: I am a born and bred Manc. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world. I’ve worked a lot in London. People have always said to me, ‘Ooh, you know, you could really do well if you come and live in London or, you worked abroad more,’ and my answer is, ‘My roots are here.’ There’s just something unique about being a Mancunian.
Esme: No, definitely. I feel like Manchester just-, it has that magical air doesn’t it?
Farida: I feel that essence of one big family. United, we stand. Divided, we fall. That’s the Manc’s motto.
Esme: Yeah. That is amazing. Thank you so much for joining us here on today’s show. .
Farida: You’re so welcome. Thank you for the opportunity.