Few food establishments in Manchester have to deal with queues forming prior to opening their gates on a rainy weekday morning, but after more than two decades serving up his charismatic take on Caribbean food, scenes at Basil “Buzzrock” Anderson’s Buzzrocks restaurant reflect just that. Similarly hailing from a heritage of culinary folklore in Manchester, the father of Buzzrock’s wife Farida Anderson was founder of the legendary Plaza Café (Charlie’s) on Upper Brook Street that, between the 1970’s and 1990’s, bewildered revellers with their ‘Suicide’ and ‘Killer’ strength curries.
Coming to Manchester from Jamaica in 1976 as a young man, the origins of Buzzrocks was slightly more nomadic than the sparkling, slick operation found today in the shops’ current location in Hulme, south of the city centre. Often hanging out with friends into the late hours of the night, Buzzrock would often offer up his cooking services and says that in this time he got the nickname that has stuck with him until this day. ‘They used to say that I would make my dumplings so tight. Tight like rocks!’, proclaims Buzzrock.
Where Caribbean meals were originally often the reserve of late nights at the Nile or Reno clubs and a select few outlets, Buzzrock, with a string of confidence from all the feedback, sought to create a legitimate operation for his food. Utilizing the mass crowds at events such as Manchester’s Moss Side Carnival, he summoned a garden gazebo, has a welder friend whip him up an authentic steel jerk drum, and was on his way from there. After about a year, the gazebo unfortunately wasn’t adequate enough.
In the early 1990s, hearing that the settlers across the country had a deft hand for making trailers, Buzzrock travelled all the way down to Haverford West in the heart of neighbouring Wales to source one from the community there.
‘We were like the Jamaican travellers,’ Buzzrock and Anderson chime. Striking a chord at the heart of England’s famous Glastonbury and Womad festivals, Buzzrock soon found fare wheeling his way around the country. ‘Every carnival! Every festival! We’d go to one finish for the day, pack up and head straight to the next one,’ and with Buzzrock needing to meticulously clean his jerk drum, Farida recalls they were often the first in and last out at every festival.
Having to lug around a freezer van for days on end and dealing with the muddy landscape familiar at most outdoor English events, the almost-rockstar tour life became a bit too much for Buzzrock and his family. He jestingly admits, ‘The trailer wasn’t hygienic and it was never really big enough’. In the colder climes, Buzzrock recalls that ‘it got so cold I couldn’t even open the trailer sometimes. I had to light a fire with the gas just to open it!’ Regardless, demand has long since overtaken supply in Buzzrock’s 16ft trailer.
Give or take a few years and, after some arm-wrestling with the local council, Buzzrock’s Hulme location was established in 2007, where he and a team at least four deep work their way around a polished white-tile open kitchen.
Being greeted with a lofty smile at midday, few realise that in order to prepare his many dishes with an assortment of secret gravies, sauces and spices, Buzzrock has already been on his feet for at least six hours prior. Not divulging any hidden clues, Buzzrock does suggest ‘nothing is frozen! Everything is fresh!’
Waking up no later than 5am, Buzzrock travels to the city’s Smithfield wholesale marketing to source his base ingredients for the day and to send greeting to the familiar vendors he’s gotten to know over the years.