By Anna Gaskell Observer Staff Writer Theo “Legend” Newton doesn’t want to change anything about his work. He runs the Exodus Ital Restaurant and Bar in Stoney Grove, which, as I have seen for myself, is always busy.” Legend does all the cooking himself, so there are times when you think he must be using magic in the kitchen to keep so much food appearing for his customers.” The bar is cosy, painted in reds and greens and yellows. Posters of Haile Selassie colour the walls. A TV in the corner is mostly on football matches.” The radio is on, too, but behind the chattering of the radio host, the faint cheers of football crowds can still be heard. Legend’s face appears occasionally, as he comes out to take food orders or pass out plates of hot “ital” food. The restaurant by the side of the bar, which is just a couple of tables and chairs, is revealed behind a flag-like cloth with “Rasta Africa” printed on it. There are more bright reds and greens and yellows on the restaurant walls, and several versions of Bob Marley are there to dine with you. Legend gives me a warm smile, despite the fact that I can tell he is anxious to get back to the kitchen. It is hard for him to get the time to talk to me at all, as he’s always so busy with the cooking. I must have come by three times before we were able to sit down and talk. Perhaps he just wanted to make sure I”d had a chance to try the tasty “ital” food first. Legend is small and athletic; he mentions his love for football more than once during our short chat. “Midfield or defence” he says when I ask him what position he plays. He started the Exodus bar three years ago, and he can still remember the exact date: June 4. Although Legend was born on Nevis, he has lived and worked in St. Kitts too, and before the Exodus bar he ran a similar kind of place with a friend of his in St. Kitts. Despite playing football for teams on both islands, he still sees Nevis as home, so he returned here to set up his business. He told me that if he wasn’t running this place and cooking, he”d be “planting’still doing something with food.” So was it hard to start up a new place? He shrugs and smiles, saying that only a few people had to taste his food and then the word spread quickly, and soon there were queues outside. Now, at lunch time here on a weekday, you will see men in suits, children in school uniform, casually dressed construction workers, and anyone else lucky enough to find this place. Clearly not all of these people are as fanatic about “ital” food as Legend, but the fact that they keep coming back proves that it tastes great, whatever your beliefs. “Ital” comes from the English word “vital”, but it emphasises the “I” -” the letter that in Rastafarian culture represents the unity of all of nature. So “ital” food is pure and natural, and almost always vegetarian. When I ask him why the food is all vegetarian, he says that it’s part of the “health conscious vibe” which he likes to live by. Modern meat is just unnatural to him; he doesn’t think it can be good for him if he wants to look after his body and mind as best he can. You wouldn’t find Legend anywhere near a fast food chain restaurant. Aside from cooking and football, he is happy farming, ’tilling the soil”, and doing construction. Doing things with his hands. I ask him if he would wish one day to be able to grow the food for the Exodus bar, as well as cook it, so that he could make sure it was all as natural as possible. That way he could combine two of his loves.” He seems to like the idea a lot. But he couldn’t do all that on his own; struggling to find time for this interview has shown that some more hands would be needed. It’s harder these days to find people who want to farm.” “Young people don’t want to get their hands dirty,” he says. When I ask him if there have ever been any hard times with the business, he doesn’t sit back to consider such a gloomy possibility, but says instead that he always keeps a little money saved by for the slower times. Like the school holidays, when there is not the constant cry of hungry students at lunchtimes. The really hard times, he says, are when power goes off or the water runs out. Then he is stuck and he can’t cook, he can only wait. Luckily the food is known to be so good that people will always come back. Although Legend’s brother sometimes helps out at the Exodus bar, but when it is just him in the kitchen, Fridays are the most chaotic.” Everyone wants a good meal to start the weekend. One thing is clear – he doesn’t resent the busy times. “I love this vibe, love what I”m doing,” he says. I ask him whether he can see himself in the same place in five years” time. “Anything can happen in five years, you can’t plan too far.” For now, perhaps he”d like to expand the business. But as soon as he’s heard himself say so, he’s quick to add, “not now, no”right now everything is good”I”m not complaining.” “And neither are his customers.
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