DeVonn Francis | Enroot Co-founder & Head Chef

DeVonn Francis

DeVonn Francis

When DeVonn Francis first moved to New York aged 18 to attend Cooper Union School of the Arts, he thought he was going to make it big as an artist.

"I wanted to be a painter, drawer, and have my work hanging in every gallery around the country."

But he quickly realized he found the food scene in New York just as, if not more interesting than the art scene.

"Food is very intimate. It comes from your hands and it's something you create. So it's very artistic in that way."

"I disagree with people who make a discrepancy between what a chef, or a builder does, and what an artist does. How is what a chef does not art?"

He started working front of house in restaurants in New York to pay the bills, but somehow he always found his way into the kitchen. This came naturally for DeVonn who has worked with food since he was 10 years old, helping out his Dad in his family run Caribbean restaurant.

"Basically my Dad opened a restaurant with no culinary ability, and no business skills. And he learned how to cook because he was forced to."

10 year old DeVonn didn't realize he was interested in food, but he knew he was interested in how all the different parts of a meal came together. He would go with his dad to wholesalers and suppliers and developed an understanding that a meal begins long before you put something on a plate.

His family history also informed DeVonn in how food can be used as nourishment. He started looking at ingredients not just in terms of taste, but how they affected the body.

"The idea in the US is that you get sick and then you fix it. But there's an argument to be made for living with intent," he says.

"And that involves a whole host of things ranging from exercise to surrounding yourself with a support network. But it also includes nourishing yourself properly."

"What inspired my Dad to open his own restaurant was this idea that food should be nourishing but not cost a lot of money," DeVonn says.

Whenever he was sick, DeVonn's grandmother would always cook his father steamed white rice with tomatoes, and this became a staple on the Caribbean restaurant's menu.

"No matter what economic bracket they are, everyone needs to eat and be nourished," says DeVonn.

That's one reason why he considers it important to be running these dinners in these specific, rural locations across the UK.

"Not everyone can go to an 8 course tasting menu in New York," 

"But people still coming together, around a table, thats important."

And DeVonn hopes through coming together to break bread, people will start to have conversations about where our food comes from and what that means.

Through Enroot, he is able to source his ingredients from local farmers and producers, and then invite them to the dinners so the other guests can quite literally meet the maker.

Through doing this DeVonn hopes he can use food to not only nourish, but educate.

"Food is the end result of a really complicated process. It's something that comes from the earth, or was farmed, and was nurtured either on it's own or at the hands of someone else," he says.

"It's so much bigger than buying something wrapped in plastic with a barcode."