'We fell in love bonding over food – so we opened our own jerk restaurant' – My London

‘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’
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Sitting side by side in their South London home, Matin and Michelle Miah reminisce on how their love for eating out at restaurants while dating in the 1990s led them to open up their own restaurant years later.
The couple who are the proud owners of Rudie's Jerk Shack, now in various locations throughout London, passionately spoke about how food was such a big part of both of their lives growing up.
Little did they know back then – despite coming from completely different cultures – the one thing they did have in common was the concept of bringing the family together with food.
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When speaking to MyLondon, you could tell British Bangladeshi Matin, 45, was excited when it came to discussing just how much cooking was a part of his life since his childhood.
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, British Jamaican Michelle, 43 says she had always grown up around food as her mum and aunties were great 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."
After Matin and Michelle got together, they always discussed opening up a restaurant and providing the experience they had while eating out, for others.
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."
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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 speaking about it for years, Matin says one day the couple finally decided to open up a restaurant after being 'wowed' on his first trip to Jamaica in 2003.
Matin had enjoyed the food so much in the Caribbean that he hoped to share that with Londoners. He had been used to cooking at home for Michelle and his family every single day after work and began taking a huge interest in creating gourmet meals.
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."
Rudie's Jerk Shack now has around eight sites across the city, including Canary Wharf, Tooting and Elephant & Castle where their most popular item is their Jerk Chicken.
You can find out more about where your nearest Rudie's Jerk Shack is here.
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