If you’re a fan of music, cookery and reality TV shows, there’s a high chance you’ll have heard of Levi Roots. This effervescent character is most famous for putting the music into food, with his highly successful Reggae Reggae Sauce.
Born in Jamaica in 1958, Keith Valentine Graham, or Levi Roots as he’s better known, is a real rags-to-riches story. With his parents residing in the UK, Levi was brought up by his grandmother, who inspired his love of cooking. Life wasn’t easy for the young Levi. He lived in poverty and didn’t have an education. By the age of 11, Levi was shipped off to the UK to join the rest of his family, where he grew up in Brixton.
A keen reggae musician, Levi had the fortune to perform alongside the likes of James Brown and Maxi Priest, whilst also singing for Nelson Mandela. However, Levi’s burgeoning music career was cut short by a spell in prison for drugs and weapons offences.
Levi professed that his prison sentence was pivotal, as it forced him to turn his life around.
Flavours of the Caribbean
As a Rastafarian who was proud of his roots, Levi enjoyed cooking, injecting flavours of the Caribbean into his food. In particular, he created a jerk sauce that he would sell at Notting Hill Carnival. As luck would have it, a talent spotter for the BBC series Dragons Den noticed Levi and encouraged him to enter the show.
After some initial persuasion, Levi took park in the 2007 series of Dragons Den, where he wowed judges with his Reggae Reggae Sauce. His spicy jerk creation was pitched to a highly infectious ditty he composed accompanied by his guitar.
Impressing the judging panel with his unique format, proposition and personality, Levi went on to secure a generous £50,000 investment in exchange for a 40% share in his business. The Reggae Reggae Sauce became an instant smash, with Peter Jones from Dragons Den helping to get the sauce on shelves in 600 Sainsbury’s stores.
Levi’s catchy Reggae Reggae Sauce song was also released as a single and an advert, with proceeds going to Comic Relief.
Levi Roots has gone on to enjoy phenomenal success since his stint on Dragons Den. He has been invited to Downing Street, has launched a School of Life Tour, published several cookery books, released an album and even opened his first Caribbean-inspired restaurant in 2015. A number of well-known restaurant chains, such as Wetherspoons, feature Levi’s sauce on their menus.
As well as Levi’s famous jerk sauce, his brand offers an extensive range of Caribbean-inspired sauces, snacks, desserts, soft drinks and ready meals. With a current product portfolio of over 50 items and a net worth of £35 million, Levi has come a long way since his humble beginnings back in Jamaica. A film portraying his rags-to-riches life story is set to be released next year.
Levi has also become something of a TV personality in his own right. As well as starring in his own cookery show, he has made appearances on Celebrity Mastermind and Big Brother.
Levi puts his success down to the fact that he has stayed true to his Caribbean heritage and the traditions instilled in him by his grandmother. He also believes that putting himself into the products he makes gives his Reggae Reggae brand greater appeal.
Crucially, Levi’s mission is to spread the message that if a black Rastafarian from Brixton can make it big with a bottle of sauce, then so can anyone.
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