A report by Rema Mukena for Bristol Live.
He also used to perform at the famous Bamboo Club
Bristol has one of the best food scenes in the country, but that also means restaurants come and go as they struggle to compete with the city’s wealth of options.
And for those who have been eating in the city for decades, you’ll have been doing something wrong if you haven’t been to Glen’s Kitchen, in Montpelier.
Chef Glen Crooks has been serving up some of the finest Caribbean food in Bristol for more than 30 years, and at the age of 63 he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
Glen, who was born in Jamaica but moved to the UK at the age of 11, first started his business in the 1980s when he created a health drink called Afro Delight.
Years later he still won’t divulge the details of what was in the drink, saying only it contained “secret ingredients”.
Glen’s Kitchen is based in St Pauls Learning Centre
Now he runs Glen’s Kitchen, in St Paul’s Learning Centre, which serves everything from plantain and curried goat to jerk chicken, cow foot and more. He believes having Glen’s Kitchen set up in St Paul’s is important for community cohesion and reducing isolation within the Caribbean locals.
More than just a chef
Not only has Glen created his own health drink and run his own kitchen, but he’s also a reggae and soul musician.
He’s been performing in Bristol for decades, including at the famous Locarno club, which was a dance hall inside a huge complex called the New Bristol Centre.
Now the site is the O2 Academy, but it once played host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie – and Glen.
Glen also performed at The Bamboo Club, which was set up in 1966 by Tony Bullimore and Lalel Bullimore which was the first place in Bristol to welcome people arriving in St Pauls from the Caribbean.
The Blak Flamez
Glen said: “I began singing in the 70s.
“I was singing when I was 16 in The Bamboo Club. Then I began performing at Locarno, where the O2 is now.
“I had a little band and there were six or seven of us. We called ourselves The Alvenger.
“Then we went on to have another group called Enterprise, so I’ve been singing for a long time.”
Showing his musical talent
Glen’s first business was a little pop up take away in Picton Street. He said: “The owner of Herberts Bakery told me about a shop on Picton Street where I could initially set up my business.
“The guy would charge me £50 rent for the week.
“So, I went there and opened a little pop up takeaway which is now known as Glen’s Kitchen.
“Me and my friend fixed the place up when I was in my 30s and that’s how it all began. I’ve always loved cooking.”
Glen has since served up delicious food at multiple venues around St Paul’s, including at the Malcolm X Centre.
He told Bristol Live: “About 15 to 16 years ago, I decided to change my business’ name to Glen’s Kitchen. I developed my business in St Paul’s because I’m well known by everybody.
He has been cooking for several years
“I remember this woman said to me ‘Glen whatever you do, don’t leave the area’, so I stayed.”
Glen did take his business abroad at one point, running it in Florida for six years, but he’s now been located inside St Pauls Learning Centre for three years.
And his business is about more than just food. He said: “Its a community thing, isn’t it? It’s not all about money.
“You’re providing a service for the people in the community.
“You know, people come in here who have no money and we still feed them.
“We provide food here for homeless people that come in here. Some people will turn up and say ‘I don’t have much money at the moment, but I’ll pay you back’, and I’ll still provide them with food.”
“A lot has changed since I moved to Bristol in 1967, for example, St Pauls Learning Centre wasn’t here before, so it’s definitely benefited the community.
“Before I opened up my restaurant in here, Caribbean people would hardly come in here because they never felt like it was for them.
“They never came here because there was nothing driving them here.
“Maybe one or two would use the library, but since I moved my business in here three years ago, people come in here, eat food, sit outside and socialise.”