“People say they’ve been to many places but never tried jerk like I make it.”Buzz
Two decades after his parents arrived in the UK with the Windrush generation, Buzzrock came to Britain from Jamaica, in 1976, age 27, holding only a photograph of his mother. Raised by an aunt, Buzzrock (known as Buzz) was the last of his family to emigrate, following his three sisters, once his father – a second world war veteran – had made enough money.
Buzz established his name in the shebeens and all-night Caribbean clubs of Manchester’s Moss Side where he met his wife Farida – the daughter of a Somali immigrant, now an MBE – and cooked up a taste of home for the city’s Jamaican community, including the tightly packed dumplings he is named after.
Now his cafe, where meat marinates from 6am and punters queue before noon, dishes up 300 plates of island food a day. “Our customers are British, Irish, Asian, Caribbean – 80% are white. It gives me a buzz to see all of them with ‘dem belly full’.” (They sell T-shirts carrying Buzz’s slogan in their online shop.)
“Buzz and I have put in a lot of hours to get here,” Farida says. “When they called the area ‘Gunchester’ we’d dodge bullets, serving food from our trailer. We fought for eight years to get our premises, experiencing racism as black shop owners.”
The pandemic has had an impact, too. “Meat is 30% more expensive. I spent last summer policing the door, getting people to wear masks and sanitise.”
In the shebeen days, Buzz’s cooking fuelled illicit gambling dens and a sideline supplying cannabis. He started the business following a two-year prison sentence for drugs offences and the (now expired) threat of deportation. Farida – later a campaigner for prisoners’ families – fought for him to remain. Now, they employ ex-offenders and prisoners on day release. “We believe in second chances,” Farida says.
Thirty years after he started feeding crowds from a gazebo at Manchester’s Caribbean carnival, Buzz is still serving the same jerk recipe, salt fish patties, flavoursome gravy and curried goat (actually lamb, because British palates “don’t like the bones in goat”) in the shop the couple opened in 2007. “Consistency is the thing,” Buzz says. “People say they’ve been to many places but never tried jerk like I make it.”