Entertainment

Leonie McDonald adding J'can flavour to world

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Sunday, August 12, 2018

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Doing the music festival circuit can be a grind for even the most season artiste. It's a trek Leonie McDonald savours.

The chirpy 67-year-old is principal of Strictly Vegan Jamaican Cuisine, a company that operates out of Los Angeles. As its name implies, it caters to vegetarians, several of whom are reggae artistes and musicians.

McDonald is the wife of singer Lloyd “Bread” McDonald of veteran roots reggae group The Wailing Souls. Since starting her mobile restaurant eight years ago, she has become a fixture on the festival scene, working at major events such as Coachella, Reggae In The Desert and Strictly Bluegrass.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer recently, she said demand for her Jamaican vegan brand has grown.

“Requests for participating at festivals has tripled since I started eight years ago. I'm able to create any dish and make it Jamaican vegan — the Reggae Wrap and Love Salad remain our best-sellers. Hot & Spicy (Veggie Protein) and Curry Tofu Tacos were added to the list and they were well received here on the West Coast,” she said.

McDonald, who is from Westmoreland, has lived in the United States for 56 years. She became a vegan in 1995, and while attending reggae shows she noticed a demand by artistes and fans for a meat-free menu.

Strictly Vegan Jamaican Cuisine has become the go-to booth for many reggae acts who tour the US West Coast regularly. McDonald's clients include the Marley family, Cocoa Tea, Beres Hammond, Third World, Steel Pulse, Tarrus Riley, The Mighty Diamonds, Sister Carol, Marcia Griffiths, former NBA player John Salley, and actor Leon.

The Reggae Wrap, a Tortilla sandwich comprising vegetables, black beans and Avocado, remains her signature creation. With jerk increasingly popular in the US, the hot and spicy dish is also a hit.

Finding suitable food was a task for the health-conscious reggae artiste during the 1970s when Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear began touring. Marley took his own cook on the road; those duties were handled by Michael “Mikey Dan” Whyte and Antonio “Gilly” Gilbert.

Before he became Tosh's manager, Copeland Forbes was his personal cook. Vivian “Kyso” Hendricks handled culinary duties for Cliff and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers for several years.

For the past two years the Jamaica Tourist Board has showcased Strictly Vegan Jamaican Cuisine at the LA Travel Show. On September 15, Leonie McDonald gets her biggest gig to date, appearing in the Celebrity Lounge at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in for the Emmy Awards.

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