“The first time I met Beverly Grant and shared my dreams and ambitions with her, she offered me a beautiful stack of portobello mushrooms and told me to work my magic,” Lee Bailey writes in an Instagram post. “I had never cooked with these kind of mushrooms before, but I gratefully accepted the challenge.”
Bailey is a Jamaican chef with dreams to open a food truck called Speak Life Cuisine. He met Grant, the founder of Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace, this past summer and began to cook meals for people participating in the farm’s community work days. Their collaboration of fresh produce and soul food will be highlighted from noon to 3 p.m. this Sunday, September 27, at a cookout and farm stand in front of Alchemy Ritual Goods, at 2536 Champa Street. Sales of Bailey’s food will raise money toward buying a food truck.
Bailey grew up in the Jamaican countryside and learned to cook from his grandmother. It’s those recipes he wishes to share. “I listen to the food, I pay attention, I trust the process and I take my time,” he explains. “This allows me to bridge what I’m learning with what I know from practice and intuitively in my spirit.”
Sunday’s menu includes many Jamaican specialties. There’s oxtail, curry goat, fried green plantains, cheesy Irish potatoes and pumpkin soup. And many of the dishes showcase the kind of fresh food Bailey grew up eating. “Country people, they mostly cook a lot of vegetables and a lot of grown food,” he says.
Lee Bailey often thinks about his grandmother and her recipes when cooking and serving his food.
Growing food is also central to the Mo’ Betta Green MarketPlace. Grant started Mo’ Betta ten years ago to provide the community with fresh produce and to have a conversation about food literacy, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. She believes that “food is a building framework that brings people together.”
Food is “certainly a need that we all need to satisfy,” Grant continues, “but relationships and sharing and caring are also things that we must do, and food makes it easier. … People are open to sharing food. That’s probably one of the things that people are most open to: sharing and trying new food.”
Grant sees this as an opportunity to support and grow community. Sunday’s cookout/fundraiser and farm stand is a moment to “leverage what we do naturally to support [Bailey],” she explains, adding that it will create a bigger network of people and circulate financial support. Grant will also be selling Mo’ Betta produce such as squash, tomatoes and greens and serving fresh juice.
Bailey says he’s taking everything one step at a time. He knows that he won’t be able to start selling his food from the food truck immediately, but it’s the goal he’s working toward, and he’s enjoying sharing his recipes with new people in the meantime.
Cooking always reminds him of his grandmother. “I get everything from my grandmother,” he explains. “And when I cook, it gives me all that love…it just gives me a different feeling, and it just lets me put…everything in it.”
Pre-order food on Bailey’s Speak Life Cuisine order form for pick-up on Sunday. Meals are $30 and include a main dish, two sides, rice and soup.