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Expat/ immigrant/ local #2 Steven Whittaker

Creative cook, Steven Whittaker, 36, is a Bajan who's realising his dreams. He runs The Lion's Share, a vegetarian cafe in Warrens, Barbados, and is a raw food chef.

'The kids at school - they didn't really 'get' what I was about, you know? But there was one person. The woodwork teacher. He looked out for me. And he really encouraged me. Yes, he did. I was always making things. Always inventing something new. And he liked that.

'Once I built a model of the school buildings, everything was to scale - it took me weeks. The headteacher called me to the front in assembly. And I went right up on the stage. I'll always remember that day. He congratulated me, you know? But the other kids laughed.

"You is a strange, boy," they'd say.

"Why you want to spend your time in a classroom, building that stuff?"

'I gew up without a TV in the house. So I spent my childhood outside on the farm with my three brothers. Climbing trees, coming up with our own ideas. Yea man, it was a good time. We were always building something.

'We'd use whatever we could find. Bits of scrap from the yard. Or stuff we'd dragged up from the beach. Driftwood, coral, bamboo sticks, rocks.

'When I was 12 I used some rough bits of ply from the yard to make a chest of drawers. And I used sharp stones for nails. The whole thing was made using a rock as a hammer. But it looked alright, man. And it worked. I had it in my bedroom for years.

'I lived in an imaginary world back then - I dreamt up things in my head and then I made them. And I'm grateful for that time. I do think I was lucky to grow up like that.

'Cooking this way - at The Lion's Share - is like a dream come true for me. I have a lot of freedom and I follow my instincts. It's working out really well so far.

'When I first opened this trailer I listened to my parent's advice. And I sold the same sort of food as everyone else, mac pie, peas and rice, fried chicken, pork, cheese cutters.

'We were doing pretty well but I was into health, I was thinking about a pure diet and reading all these vegetarian and raw recipes at home.

'It didn't sit right with me that I was serving everything fried, animal products, white rice, white macaroni. Where's the nutrition in that?

'So I started to change things up a bit. I added grilled fish to the menu. Quinoa. Brown rice. Then I stopped frying. I stopped buying oil. People questioned me. They said I'd lose all my customers.

"You got to serve fried chicken, you got to sell burgers," they'd say.

'But I was doing what I believed was right. I'd look at the list of ingredients on the frozen burger boxes and think, 'man, what is all this stuff?'

'So I started making beef patties from scratch. People were amazed. They'd ask how I made them and tell me how good they tasted.

'It was crazy really. It was like they'd lost touch with real food. The taste and texture of it. Where it comes from. And it made me want to cook even more. To try out new things,'

'New customers started coming. I guess they heard that I was doing something different. I got to know herbalists, organic famers and raw foodists. I did a course in Biogenic Food and realised that there was a need in Barbados for the kind of tasty wholefood I wanted to make.'

'That's when I took meat off the menu.

'I went back to the ground provisions from my childhood: sweet potato, breadfruit, cassava. I made them the stars of the dish, man, and created my own flavourings with fresh ground spices, and fresh herbs that I grow out the back.

'It's all stuff that I had as a child. Amazing powerful flavours from nature. Dandelion, blue vervain, souce sickle and moringa.

'Now I use fruit that's in season and local veg, Bajan cherries, mangoes, donce and ackee.

'It's all delicious and good, yes it is.

'Like today's special. Roasted breadfuit loaf with fresh homemade tomato sauce, rich lentil and ginger stew and avocado houmus with green dandelion leaves and homepicked cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

'Sounds just heavenly, don't you think?'


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