Legendary vegan Rasta chef and MC Jah Spirit dies age 71
- Credit: Made in Hackney
The legendary vegan Rastafarian chef and MC, Jah Spirit has died aged 71.
Spirit, whose real name is Lowell Grant, was a well-known figure in Hackney thanks to his cooking classes and former shop in Broadway Market.
He started out selling meals and fresh fruit from his “signature van” at places like the Notting Hill Carnival, before opening the grocery shop in 1991.
But a decade later his offer to buy the premises from Hackney Council was ignored in favour of selling it to a property developer at auction, and he was evicted.
Spirit spent the last 10 years of his life fighting a legal battle against the council and lawyers over the handling of the case, which “sapped his energy, health and strength”.
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He found solace helping vulnerable young people learn to cook and eat more healthily through teaching Caribbean-style vegan Ital food classes at the charity Made in Hackney.
Its founder Sarah Bentley, who was friends with him for 15 years, told the Gazette: “It really has been the biggest honour to have Spirit by our side. He supported me and my family for over a decade with his laughter, wisdom and homegrown corn-on-the-cobs.
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“He was an amazing community cookery teacher. People loved his often hilarious delivery style and natural way with people. He hated lesson plans and set recipes which always kept us all on our toes – he liked to go with the flow and cook from the heart.”
She added: “We spent many an hour typing and retyping out his legal case documents. I learnt a fair bit about the law that way but so much more about the integrity of never giving up when fighting an injustice.”
Spirit fell ill and was taken into hospital early this month. He was diagnosed with advanced cancer and died on Sunday. His children told the Gazette he will be “dearly missed” and they could “never have asked for a better father”.
“He kept us humble and taught us what true hard work is,” they said.
“He was constantly visited by friends and family in hospital, and also members of the Rastafarian community who played drums and chants for their elder.”
They added: “Our father loved to cook and had a caring and loving nature. His words of wisdom and legacy will live on in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”