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While she may not have fol­lowed the tra­di­tional route into the culi­nary world, Ruby Tues­day’s Soul Food at Ber­lin on Dame Street has proved a hit with food crit­ics and ca­sual din­ers alike. The Brix­ton na­tive talks perfecting her jerk recipe, reg­gae in the kitchen, and Dublin’s grow­ing ap­petite for Afro-Caribbean soul food. In­ter­view: Lucy O’Toole

Ruby Tues­day has had a pas­sion for Afro-Caribbean home cook­ing from a young age, but when she ar­rived in Dublin 14 years ago, be­com­ing one of Dublin’s most pop­u­lar chefs was de nitely not on her agenda. “Soul food is what I grew up on, back home in Lon­don,” she ex­plains. “Brix­ton is a melt­ing pot of Caribbean and African cul­ture. I didn’t re­alise how much I missed it un­til I’d been over here for a while.”

There was no tra­di­tion of cater­ing in Ruby’s fam­ily. Her mother, orig­i­nally from Ghana, was a seam­stress who made tra­di­tional African at­tire. In fact, it wasn’t un­til Ruby found her­self serv­ing up jerk chicken to hun­gry crowds at Man­tua Fes­ti­val in Roscom­mon, over a decade ago, that she be­gan to se­ri­ously con­sider pur­su­ing her love of soul food. Soon, she be­gan de­vel­op­ing her own jerk recipe.

“I rang up one of my Ja­maican rel­a­tives, as well as my friends and fam­ily in Lon­don, and picked their brains about how they do their jerk sea­son­ing,” she re­calls. “So I took the bits of ad­vice I liked, and then put my own spin on it. I be­came more con dent when it was my own sauce.”

Her big break came two years ago, when a friend al­lowed her to use the kitchen space in his café in Smith eld. From there, the en­ter­prise only con­tin­ued to grow. She’s now based in Ber­lin, a pop­u­lar bar on Dame Street, where she serves her soul food ev­ery evening.

Al­though she nds it hard to pick her per­sonal favourite item on the menu (“I’ll eat ev­ery­thing!” she laughs), Ruby ad­mits that her ox­tail has a spe­cial place in her heart. Curry goat, Ja­maican pat­ties, and, of course, jerk chicken, are also fan favourites. She has some de­li­cious op­tions for veg­e­tar­i­ans too.

“We do a vege­tar­ian salsa wrap, with toma­toes, red onions, bal­samic, pineap­ples and plan­tains. It’s a real fu­sion of avour. If peo­ple want it hot and spicy, I’ll give them our chilli sauce. It’s got a lit­tle vine­gary twang to it, so it gives the wrap a real zing.”

“Just re­cently we’ve de­cided to throw salsa into the jollof rice

and mix it to­gether,” she adds. “It’s amaz­ing. The jollof rice is ba­si­cally onions, gar­lic and ginger stewed down, with chopped toma­toes and to­mato purée to thicken it a bit. You mar­i­nate with some sea­son­ing, and as it boils through, you throw the rice in and let it cook slowly.”

Ber­lin’s ex­quis­ite cock­tails also pro­vide the ideal pair­ing for Ruby’s dishes.

“They do the mean­est Porn­star cock­tails!” she says. “So sweet. They go nicely with the food, be­cause the pas­sion fruit has that Caribbean vibe. Ber­lin do the best Guin­ness on the south­side, too – I’d know, be­cause I’m a Guin­ness fa­natic!”

Con­sid­er­ing that her culi­nary ca­reer was es­sen­tially born at a mu­sic fes­ti­val, it’s not too sur­pris­ing to hear that she likes a nice, eclec­tic mix of mu­sic in her kitchen.

“My kitchen’s bub­blin’,” she laughs. “Bub­blin’ in Dublin! I might start off with a bit of gospel, move into some reg­gae, and then get into house. I don’t like it be­ing quiet and se­ri­ous. Life it­self is too se­ri­ous.”

Al­though Afro-Caribbean soul food is not quite a Dublin sta­ple (yet), Ruby be­lieves there’s a great ap­petite for it in the city.

“Re­cently an Ir­ish guy came in, and he told me that he used to live in Ful­ham,” she says. “He said he was so ex­cited to be able to have Caribbean food at home now. We have to re­mem­ber that there are a lot of peo­ple go­ing in and out of Lon­don from here, and the Ir­ish of­ten live among Afro-Caribbean com­mu­ni­ties over there.”

“The Ir­ish are al­ways up for gal­li­vant­ing too,” she adds. “They’re not afraid to try some­thing new. I like to keep the hum­ble­ness, but I have to be hon­est: every­body has to taste this food.”

Ruby Tues­day’s @ Ber­lin, 14 Dame Street, Dublin 2

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