We want to bring the exotic tastes of the jungle to your table, to make you happier and healthier. So, we use local, natural ingredients and our recipes are often home-made family specials from the Caribbean. Our food and drink will never contain nasty chemicals and we’ll always give back to people and nature. We’re different from the faceless global multinationals that want to own your plate. We’re Rodie’s, we’re different and we’ll stay so for the long-term.
It’s said that Britain has fallen in love with spicier food – even that our national dish is now Chicken Tikka Massala. But the sad truth is that many of the tastes and spices available in the aisles of our supermarkets are weak and insipid imitations of the real thing – industrial gloop sauces with little distinctive flavour or provenance. If your wine was made like your chilli sauce, you’d be drinking chemical vinegar imported in bulk tankers.
We’re going to change that and give you sauces made with the same attention to great ingredients, local origin and amazing flavours that you get in a great wine or craft beer. We source as many of our ingredients as we can, from local, sustainable producers and distinctive varieties like the Guyanese Wiri-Wiri chilli pepper or its even hotter but still sweet-tasting relative, the Ball-of-fire.
We think great flavours and ingredients are about more than just pleasure – they actually make you a measurably healthier and happier human. We will always try to help you look after your wellbeing so we’ll never make the sort of unhealthy junk that many large food conglomerates try to force down your throat.
Our aim is to liberate you from the grey-tasting, mundane bottles on the shelves of your local supermarket, into a world bursting with flavour, passion and human imagination. Even better, when you buy a jar or bottle of Rodie’s, you’ll be helping the world, since we’ll donate 10% of our profits to education and ecology projects in Guyana and the Caribbean. You’ll also be supporting our fair-trade work with local farmers in the region, who we partner with and invest in, to grow their specialist, gastronomic production, whilst also safeguarding the natural world.
We’re a young company but our roots are deep, stretching back two centuries to 1814, when Scotsman, Dr Hugh Rodie first set foot on the Caribbean shore of South America, in what was then called Demerera, now Guyana. He was an amazing amateur scientist – a passionate explorer and plant-collector in the deep tropical jungles of the country. He discovered everything from giant water-lilies to a new medicines to treat malaria derived from the bark of certain huge jungle trees. He loved Guyana and its nature, spending years to grew fruit trees and spices.
Aletha Shepherd, our co-founder is his descendent and our mission has been inspired by his drive to explore nature and its riches. We have named our company after him since he’s not just family but our inspiration and founding spirit – you can read more about him below.
Aletha works as an actress and entrepreneur based in London and Los Angeles. As a member of the Rodie family, she grew up steeped in the traditions of Guyanese cuisine, Caribbean culture and the exotic tastes of her ancestor’s homeland.
She’s our cool and beautiful founder and has even been a Beauty Queen – in 2010 she was Miss Guyana representing the country in the Miss World competition. As part of that she began to work on campaigns and projects to celebrate and protect the rich ecosystem of the country, women’s rights, health and education. Nature and conservation have since become her passion and she is a tireless campaigner for women, particularly black women’s rights. She has now combined those causes with a love of the local cuisine she grew up with, health and wellness, to make Rodie’s her new mission.
Jonathan, despite his family name, which he claims is Welsh – has far less exotic ancestry. That didn’t stop him falling in love with the tropical jungle and the riches of nature, whilst serving as a young officer in the British Army, nor with the joy of great food whilst later working as a chef on billionaire’s yachts. He has travelled widely in the Caribbean and is passionate about the riches of the flora, ecology, people and foods of the region.
Jonathan might not be as cool or beautiful as Aletha but he claims to have gone to a good university and is certainly an a bit of a middle-aged boffin, devouring research on the the health and happiness benefits of the right diet of varied plants. He’s also an experienced entrepreneur – although in truth, he’s happiest in the Rodie’s kitchens concocting new spicy delights for your pleasure.
History – Dr Hugh Rodie and the Rodie Family
When Hugh Rodie first stepped ashore in Demerara, now Guyana, he had just left the British Navy, serving as ship’s surgeon on HMS Clorinde in the Napoleonic Wars. He hoped to use his retirement half-pay to set himself up in work there as a doctor. His real passion though was Botany – the plants of the jungles of Guyana became his obsession. He seems to have spent far more time plant-hunting than with his patients.
His discoveries were remarkable, even by the amazing standards of C19th amateur scientists. If you’ve been to Kew Gardens in London you may have seen the enormous scallop-edged Victoria lilies in the pools of the Tropical House. Rodie was the first botanist to successfully harvest usable seeds, from plants in the Essequibo river and he sent them back to Kew. He also discovered an important tree called the Greenheart, scientifically named after him as Chlorocardium rodiei. His experiments proved that its bark contained an important medicine, which he called “Bibirine”. It became a valuable replacement for the quinine which was them vital across the British Empire for combatting malaria.
Rodie wrote letters to his fellow Botanists at Kew Gardens about the fruit trees and spices and peppers, many of which we grew and harvested in a plantation he cleared in Demerara. We don’t yet know much about Hugh Rodie’s private life but we do know that he left a few seeds of his own in Demerera and he has many descendants. Slavery wasn’t fully abolished in the British empire until 1833 so we can have suspicions, but no certainty, about such relationships. We do know though, that the Guyanese Rodie family continues to thrive, and is mainly of Afro-Guyanese descent but with strong traces of Scottish DNA in their blood. Many of them emigrated to the UK in the 1960s. The family still talk about his achievements as if he died yesterday. Whenever the family gather, they cook with many of the spices such as Wiri-wiri and Casareep, derived from native plants that Hugh knew and collected. Aletha, the co-fonder of Rodie’s is a Rodie granddaughter – you can read the history of Dr Hugh Rodie, the Victorian botanist below. Her aunt Enid Rodie helped us with many of our recipes.
Guyana is huge, exotic and almost entirely covered in jungle. Slightly smaller than the UK but with 1% of the population it is a natural and ecological wonderland with one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America. That jungle is teeming with enough wildlife, including anacondas, jaguars and giant tarantulas, to attract the attention of David Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit who made their famous series Lost Land of the Jaguar in the highlands of the country.