Ryan’s Kitchen: Meet the man behind Leeds’ take-out empire serving Caribbean food for everyone to enjoy

Orders exploded for Ryan Simpson’s Kirkstall Road restaurant as people searched for a tasty treat while stuck at home.

Spicy by not spicy, Ryan’s food is full of Caribbean flavor – but he’s not afraid to tailor dishes.

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Ryan Simpson, 37, is the owner of Ryan’s Kitchen in Kirkstall Road

He learned to cook in his youth when he and his siblings took turns cooking three-course meals every Saturday, but it wasn’t until he moved from Doncaster to Leeds in 2004 that he s ‘is focused on Caribbean cuisine.

Ryan, 37, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I moved into a shared house in Chapeltown with three Jamaicans and they taught me how to cook Jamaican food.

“It’s all about patience – marinating the food and extracting the juice from the meat, rather than adding water.”

While working in a call center, the inviting smells of Ryan’s Jamaican curries caught the attention of his co-workers, who began shopping for his food every week.

Spicy by not spicy, Ryan’s food is full of Caribbean flavors

“They were going to food festivals and trying Jamaican food, but they said it wasn’t as good as mine,” Ryan added.

“I was bored at my job and felt really dissatisfied. It was a comfortable job with a lot of money, but I always wanted to do it. Finally, I took the plunge. “

Ryan ran a mobile catering business for five years before opening his cozy Kirkstall Road restaurant and take-out center four years ago.

It serves Jamaican-inspired food, simmered jackfruit chicken curry in a sweet jerk sauce, with traditionally spicy dishes served sweet – extracting the scotch bonnet flavor without the heat.

Ryan said: “My first curry went through a lot of adaptations; the feedback was that it was too thin, too salty, too spicy or too bone-in.

“I learned from the comments, tailoring them to people’s needs instead of focusing on what’s traditional or how the dish is meant to be.

“We focus on consistency and the use of quality ingredients. Everything is gluten free with the exception of the dumplings and wraps and there is a wide vegan range.

“It is a place that everyone can enjoy.”

Demand has exploded during the lockdown, with a Ryan’s Kitchen takeout becoming a weekend ritual for many of its customers.

“It was something that people were looking forward to,” Ryan added.

“People placed orders at 9 am to 6 pm at night; they loved it.

“It was difficult, it had gotten out of hand. There was not enough room to place all the orders because there was so much.

“I learned to adapt. We already had deliveries underway, so it was a matter of streamlining it and hiring enough people to keep the same level of service.

Ryan’s dishes are all cooked on site, using local ingredients where possible and seasonings from Jamaica.

It continues to offer a private catering service for weddings and events, where it offers one-day specials and new recipes.

“I love to cook and I love seeing people enjoy food,” Ryan said.

“When you go out to eat it should be a happy experience and that’s what I’m trying to create.”

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Michael M. Tomlin

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