Talking Shop With Irie Zulu’s Yollande Deacon

Talking Shop With Irie Zulu’s Yollande Deacon

Our Q&A with the owner of Irie Zulu.

Photo by Chris Kessler.
Photo by Chris Kessler.

Read our review of Irie Zulu here or pick up a copy of the January issue on newsstands.

You’ve said you “never had a plan” to create a spice business, let alone a restaurant. Where does the ambition come from?
I cook from the heart and have a passion for my country. I won’t deny that it’s challenging as a chef. [But] I’m not going to cook here what people can have everywhere else. I make things as I go. I did not want this to be mass-produced!

How did you choose the name?
“Irie” is Jamaican for “cool” and “connected to nature.” And “Zulu” is an iconic tribe in Africa. I wanted buzz words connected to my brand. If you look at my logo, it’s like a combination of Shaka Zulu and Bob Marley.

What are your goals for Irie Zulu?
The next generation is an African “deli” [which will occupy the glass cases next to the bar]. I want to do salads infused with my spices – black-eyed pea salad, corn salad. In spring, we’ll do a custard made with millet, and little snacks. But I don’t want to get away from what got me started – my product line.

Which spices are essential and staples in your pantry?
Allspice is No. 1. Nutmeg, garlic, Scotch bonnet pepper. And I grind all of my seasonings.

Are there dishes you consider essential to the cuisines you’re featuring?
Absolutely. Peanut stew, both chicken and vegetarian. Whole fish served with tomato-onion relish. Oxtail stew from Jamaica. There are so many.

‘Talking Shop With Irie Zulu’s Yollande Deacon’ appears in the January 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the January issue on newsstands beginning Jan. 4.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.