Sitting next to each other in their south London home, Matin and Michelle Miah recall how their love of restaurants while dating in the 1990s led them to open their own restaurant years later.
The couple, who are the proud owners of Rudie’s Jerk Shack, which now operates in various locations across London, spoke passionately about how food has played a vital role in both of their lives.
Little did they know at the time – despite coming from completely different cultures – that the only thing they had in common was the idea of family bonding around food.
Speaking to MyLondon, you can tell 45-year-old British Bangladeshi Matin is enthusiastic when discussing the importance of cooking in life from an early age.
‘My dad died when I was young so my mum got me in the kitchen and every night was a big meal as we all ate together’
He said: “My parents emigrated to the UK in the 1960s and 70s and my dad was a chef. We had family in the food industry so I grew up around food. Though I lived in multiple areas around North London lived in, I met Michelle when we worked together in 1997 in Greenwich.
“Since the age 11, I did a lot of cooking at home. My dad died when I was young so my mum got me in the kitchen and every night was a big meal as we all ate together. My brothers would come back from work and we would all sit together to eat.”
Similarly, Michelle, a 43-year-old British Jamaican, said she always grew up around food because her mother and aunts were all excellent cooks.
“I grew up in Catford and Forest Hill areas in South East London. My grandma came over from Jamaica and initially lived in Stockwell next to Brixton. I spent most of my weekends with my grandma and she used to bake a lot, cook lots of food and have loads of parties.
“My mum, when she came over with her sisters lived in New Cross for a while. I think my love of food came from them – mum and sisters. They worked for the NHS but they also used to have their own catering business and did catering events.
“They used to cater for Notting Hill Carnival and as a small kid I remember going to carnival which was a lot different then to what it is now.
“I was the youngest of four girls and spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mum. Out of all the sisters my oldest sister is a good cook, then it’s me.”
‘When I met Michelle, we would eat out probably five times a week’
After Matin and Michelle met, they always talked about opening a restaurant and giving others the experience of eating out.
When asked whether food was a big part of the couple getting together, Matin reflected: “One of our bonds is definitely that we both like to go and eat out. When I met Michelle, we would eat out probably five times a week because we worked together, so would have lunch and dinner together.
“Our relationship was built on going to the best restaurants, not just eating but that whole restaurant experience. I love the atmosphere in a restaurant, there’s just lots of energy and the feeling of being taken care of.”
Michelle added: “I would say I think with us we knew we came from similar backgrounds in terms of being family-oriented. We are very different but similar in terms of family values, welcoming people in and taking care of others.
“People come over and eat with us and Matin loves to do all of that – we love entertaining and that’s how we are similar.
“When I was growing up, every day we had pots of food on the stove as you don’t know who will come in and out. We always sat together as a family so for us to entertain we would always have dinner parties.
“We still do it now, like hosting Christmas for 20-plus people because we both love food.”
After years of discussion, Matin said one day the couple finally decided to open a restaurant after being “impressed” on their first trip to Jamaica in 2003.
In fact, he says he even expressed an interest in applying to MasterChef.
“One year we went to Jamaica and spent it travelling around the island sampling food. When we came home we were just like I really want do something and then Michelle said let’s just do it, let’s make some contacts in places we visited in Jamaica and see what we can do to find our best recipes for jerk chicken,” he said.
Matin was in awe of the cuisines, culture, food and drink. Upon coming back to London, hestruggled to find an Caribbean Jamaican food experience.
“In 2014 we finally decided to go for it, we started researching a business plan. Planned a trip to Jamaica to explore and meet food industry leaders, jerk shacks and even went to Hillshore Beach, which is famous for seafood to get menu inspiration ideas.
“We eventually raised money and found a site, – in October 2015 we set up in Dalston, which was a really up-and-coming area.”
Rudie’s Jerk Shack opened up in Boxpark, Shoreditch which Matin and Michelle say was the best experience for them.
They said: “Boxpark is a really strong partner. We wouldn’t be in this food scene if it wasn’t for our Boxpark site in Shoreditch which showed us what our brand could become.
“We are now on to our second site with them and a potential third. For start-up business they’re one of the best operators. If anyone was thinking of starting on a small scale they also do pop-ups so you can get a feel for the industry.”
He used to cook at home for Michelle and her family every day after work and became very interested in creating delicious meals. In fact, he said he’s even expressed interest in applying to MasterChef.
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury
Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties.
He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.
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Editor: Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury
A professional journalist-owned ethical daily published from Britain.