From internet sensations to cookbook authors
Brothers Craig and Shaun McAnuff, aka Original Flava – the name of their hit YouTube channel and debut cookbook – were close growing up and are just as close now, if not more so.
The South London cooks dish up Caribbean food to their legions of online fans, and arguments are still rare.
“It’s made us very competitive, in a good way,” said Shaun. “We want to make things right and better, and the [recipe] standard has to be really high – it’s brought us closer together.”
The brothers, who have Jamaican heritage, were inspired to cook by their mother and grandmother, and put the increasing popularity of Caribbean food down to a “British acceptance of our culture” combined with staple Caribbean ingredients – from plantain to cassava – being more widely available, and the likes of Levi Roots and Ainsley Harriott having “paved the way.”
Original Flava is all about pushing that further.
“We saw that lots of people loved Caribbean food, but were quite intimidated by it because they didn’t know how to cook it,” explained Craig.
“So initially, we just wanted to make a page for our friends and everything blew up overnight. It was bit of a shock,” remembered Shaun.
“I looked at my brother one day, like woah – everyone’s sharing it.”
Now they have a mighty 15,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 58,000 Instagram followers.
Though, things could have panned out quite differently.
Speaking of gang culture, Craig said: “We understand the struggles that young people face when it comes to this sort of thing.
“We try to teach young people: Have that no-fear attitude, but put it in a positive place.”
The brothers visit schools to talk about their experiences and run cookery workshops.
A lot of their own positivity and drive can be attributed to the support of their quite wonderful sounding grandmother.
“Our nan [Lurline] is our inspiration; she’s an amazing lady,” says Shaun reverently, adding with a laugh: “She’s actually more popular than us now! She literally gets stopped on the street.”
Their food encompasses nan-approved traditional Caribbean dishes like rice and peas, mac and cheese and beef patties, but also ones with a twist, like jerk-spiced lentil bolognese, green banana potato salad, and their jerk burger.
For the book, Craig and Shaun visited Jamaica, spending time with family and eating their way round the island.
“Cooking over there’s a lifestyle,” explained Craig. “You’ll see people in the streets selling food and they won’t be alone – they’ll be with their friends, it’ll be like a community and that’s how it is on every street corner.
“That’s what we’re trying to introduce with our food as well.”