I literally decided to put my money where my mouth is ...
What is it with South London and street food? I know that East London likes to claim all food trends as its own, but down south, from Levis Roots to Brixton’s take on Boxpark, I’d argue that all of the street food trends start here. But I would.
Someone that would agree with me is Jemal ‘ Big J’ Peters, who has produced a range of sauces that echo his South London upbringing where he was renowned for his Street BBQ’s. Inspired by his Jamaican background these are where the sauces were first made. From delinquent South London teenager to a youth worker and now food entrepreneur Big J has a number of awards along the way and it’s set to be a massive year with a major supermarket stocking his sauces this summer 2015.
Hey Big J, so tell me about yourself. How does a self-professed former ‘bad boy’ become the next big thing on the high street supermarkets shelves?
By having a daughter (laughs). Seriously, I think it's because having a child gave me something more to live for than just myself... I got use taking risk and not worrying about the consequence, but having a child changes all that because now I have someone who needs me. So that gave me a true reason to be motivated and determined to succeed.
What exactly goes into these sauces of yours?
Authentic natural ingredients, mixed with passion and creativity! Big J goes into every bottle so that means you’ve got a piece of the real UK streets in every way! Especially South London!
I’m a South Londoner myself (Brixton, now Herne Hill). How has your background influenced your products?
I’ve lived in Tooting most of my life and also Clapham Junction and Battersea. My environments has a major role to play in the brand.... It's "Da Flavour Of Da Street"! This is me bringing the U.S. Streets to the food game letting the world know that we’ve got something fun, cool and tasty out here. The recipes I've created are all based on meals and snacks that we grew up on and still enjoy in the UK urban world. In South London (and every urban city in the UK) we have a great mix of cultures that live together and teach each other new ways daily….which has really been demonstrated In music and fashion. Big J's brings this to food representing the UK’s Street Culture!
I see from your website that you’re doing your bit for charity too. Tell us a bit more about those?
Youth offending has always been close to my heart because of my first-hand experience as a perpetrator and a youth worker. I personal know there's so much more to a young offender than the world sees!
A lot of young offenders are products of their environment and may not want to offend but see it as their only realistic option. I recognise that a lot of the skills are transferable and I know that if young people are in a different environment and exposed to different things they can easily be successful business men and women.
So I literally decided to put my money where my mouth is and I've made an element of my business to be about supporting young people to make positive change in their lives. Each year I aim to take from Big J's Profits and run The Or?What Programme - a programme that supports young offenders and young people at risk of offending get into business through mentoring and also gives tailor made awards to get them started and allow them to make their dreams a reality. Our moto is "A Dreams With Nothing If You Leave Ut On Your Pillow...Go Get It!"
Finally, besides your own sauces, what else is out there on the food scene that you’re loving right now?
I like going out for meals and eating from different chefs and different cuisines ... I've been enjoying Korean food a lot recently - it's almost like a slightly healthier version of Chinese! Otherwise I'm a simple man... give me a nice packet of crisps (laughs).
Nice one Jemal and good luck with the new venture. I’ll keep an eye out for those sauces.