Saláma Kefentse-Francis talks rediscovering her heritage through food
Not a moment goes by that there isn’t a smile on Saláma’s face. After speaking to her for five minutes you already felt at home and like you are speaking to an old family friend- she’s the sort of person whose energy is infectious.
It doesn’t take long to understand how deeply Saláma’s passion for food goes. She loves big flavours, wholesome food that heals both body and soul, and sharing her dishes and knowledge with others.
Her food fusion cookery workshop for families is just one small part of the culinary legacy that she has built from scratch and dreams of one day passing down to her family. Just Love Nibbles, her culinary business, is a legacy that she has fought long and hard for.
Although her cooking has ancestral roots, Saláma fell in love with food and cooking later in life and didn’t get the chance to learn directly from her grandmothers. She grew up in Bristol tasting their food, and it’s these memories that she used to recreate the dishes she knew from childhood.
As she listed the ingredients in her grandmother’s Saturday soup recipe she explained: “I didn’t actually get to pick up anything from them because by the time I got to be old enough to start getting myself in the kitchen they were too old- so I actually kind of missed it.
“So the way I recreate what I know and love from my grandmothers’ cooking (from the two of them) I base it off smell and taste.
“If I can get the right smell of something I’m cooking then I’m on to a winner! Then if I can match the smell and then get the taste with it as well then I’m like, ‘yeah I’ve made you proud up there ladies!’”
Saláma used all the memories of her family’s cooking and the recipes that her Jamaican husband introduced to her to put her own spin on traditional Jamaican cooking- and it worked.
How Just Love Nibbles was born
It wasn’t a straight and easy road by any stretch of the imagination, and Saláma tried and tested many things before Just Love Nibbles became what it is today.
Having already learned a few things about business from her parents, the seed of starting a food business was planted when Saláma visited a bagel shop in London. She said she’d never seen so many fillings, and she was inspired to start something similar in Bristol. Then cupcakes caught her eye and she started selling her own cupcakes at St Nicholas Market. Then life threw something bigger her way…
“One day I was walking past this cafe I used to go to and it was closing down. They did the best salad boxes and sandwiches and I thought that if they closed down I wouldn’t be able to have them anymore- so I decided to take it on even though I didn’t know anything yet! I ran it for three years and I was there every day, didn’t take a sick day, and I was really disciplined.”
When the cafe’s lease ran out Saláma didn’t know what to do with herself at first. Having given so much time to running the place she felt lost without it- and that’s when she turned her hand to traditional Jamaican cooking and marinades.
On to a winner
It was when she won first prize for best jerk marinade at Bristol Jerk Festival that it hit Saláma that she was on to a winner. The recipe was her own concoction, created from the traditional recipe taught to her by the man that would become her husband.
Saláma was visiting Jamaica when her future husband showed her how to make jerk:
“I didn’t like the recipe, so I used it to create my own- but I will always give him his props because he helped me on my journey and I am grateful to him. He was somebody that I’d just met at the time, and now he’s my husband.
“I use authentic and traditional herbs and ingredients and I create something that is originally from Jamaica but I’m bringing it here [to Bristol] to incorporate my ancestral background into my food.
“I know I must be doing something good because I’ve gotten this far in life- I have three businesses under Just Love Nibbles and my business gets a lot of support. I am known and people send business my way, that tells me that I’m doing something that’s working.”
If you are lucky enough to catch Saláma’s cooking in the wild when she’s set up her Wingin’ It food truck then you’re in for a treat- but in the meantime, you’re able to taste a bit of her heritage during one of her cooking experiences or by buying some of her award-winning jerk marinades.
The future for Saláma and Just Love Nibbles
“I remember being in Jamacia as a young woman and brushing my teeth outside in the morning.
“Every morning we went outside the house and brushed our teeth in the garden and you’re in paradise. You can hear and see the birds and you can see the trees and they’ve got all these beautiful blossoms and fruit. You’ve got abundance all around you and you’re standing in the middle of it brushing your teeth.”
Saláma dreams of travelling and of settling down and making a family in Jamaica. It’s also important to her to leave her mark and to pass down her knowledge to the family that is yet to come. The future of Just Love Nibbles has many different potential avenues, and there are so many roads Saláma wants to explore, and as she discovers the next parts of her journey she notes down all the recipes she discovers in her recipe book:
“What I know is that I intend to pass down something. I missed out on the opportunity to get, and collect, and collate from my own grandparents, it’s important for me to ensure that I leave something for someone else- whether it be for my children or not.
“It’s for the people of the same bloodline as me, it’s for the people that will want to know where they come from- they’ll get a piece of that information from me from what I have left behind for them. So that’s really important for me.
“I like knowing that I am kind of paving the way. I don’t know which way, and I don’t know for who, but I know that I am definitely paving the way.”
As our conversation came to a close, what was most important to Saláma was expressing the gratitude she had to all the wonderful people in her life that have supported her as she worked towards her dream. She brimmed with pride as she explained how her hard work and dedication boiled down to the people that made her who she is today and that she hopes her loved ones are proud of the amazing young woman she’s become.