Ziggy Marley on Roasted Hemp Seeds, Closing Down South Beach with Guy Fieri, and Opening a Restaurant in Los Angeles

Ziggy Marley

Festival closeouts can are tricky. The big parties are over and most everyone is full and tired from (if still not of) eating and drinking good food and drink for days. But for those who refuse to let the party end, there's one last ticket, one final chance to enjoy the comfortable weather and to snack and sip on flavorful bites and boozed-up beverages. This year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival features a closeout party highlighting Guy Fieri and none other than reggae star Ziggy Marley, who is looking to make his own inroads into the world of food and wine.

In this interview previewing the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, musician Ziggy Marley talks about his upcoming South Beach set, his line of organic foods, and gives word that he's thinking about opening up a restaurant. Where? Read on.

You'll be closing out the South Beach Wine & Food Festival with Guy Fieri. Can you tell us how this came about, a little about your set and the event in general? Will you be playing both your own songs and your father's?
Yeah, well I kind of recently entered into the food industry, that's the way I would put it, with some food products. We're making a coconut oil, and hempseeds. The line is called Ziggy Marley Organics. So I've been trying to promote the idea of using the coconut oils and also using that platform as an opportunity to talk about GMOs and organic food. So I've been trying to visit as many of the food festivals as I can, and I was invited to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and you know, music and the food kind of go together. Good music, good food, organic music, and organic food. We'll just play some music and enjoy ourselves.

So what will you play during your set? Your music? Some of your father's music? A mix?
Yeah, a little mix. Just a mix — have some fun. You know.

You'll be introducing your line of organic foods… which you launched back in March (coconut cooking oil and roasted hempseeds), what was the impetus behind the food line?
We launched it about a year ago. So it's the world's first flavored organic culinary coconut oil, and it's also the world's first flavored roasted hempseeds, which are roasted in the shell. It's cool. It's non-GMO, organic, you know

So what was the inspiration for launching these products?
Well, I want to expand what I'm doing and where I am. Music is one thing and food is the next thing. I cook and food is very important to me healthwise, you know being on the road. Everything works together, you know my music and my food. If I eat good food, I play good music. It really helps me when I'm on the road to have healthy food. So when I was approached me with the idea of doing the organic coconut oil, I was like, yeah, because in Jamaica when I was growing up, coconut oil was a main thing. We used to cook with coconut oil every day. So it was very natural for me to do something with coconuts — for me growing up it was drinking water, eating the meat, and cooking with the oil of the coconut. And the hempseeds, the idea of hempseeds, these are some of the most surreptitious seeds on the planet. In some ways it's very important to me, because not only the seeds but the hemp plant can be very beneficial to the planet. 

And where can they be found?
In some stores. Check your local good grocery stores that sell organic food, and it's online at Ziggymarleyorganics.com. Don't forget to check us out there, and there's a Facebook page, too.

Any new products in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
Nothing right now to speak of. Slowly but surely we're trying to expand. We're not trying to bum-rush. We're just keeping it easy and organically as I say. We're keeping everything organic, even the way we're doing things. If I'm going to do something it has to be close to my heart, something that I can feel good about. So we're taking it very slowly.

You said before good food means good music for you, so what's the best food for you to make the best music?
Well you know usually I have some good vegetables. Some vegetarian food, some fou fou and curried coconut using my coconut oil.  And I use that with my tofu. It's light and it doesn't make you feel weighed down and heavy. And it doesn't take away your energy. You know, sometimes when you eat food, it takes away your eneergy. When I eat, I want to feel like the food has done something good for me. That's how I eat.

Are you vegetarian?
I'm not vegetarian. I eat fish. But I do eat vegetarian most of the time. But I will eat fish. I'm not totally against that.

So what's your favorite fish to eat?
Well, I like sushi. I do like to eat raw fish. But when I do cook fish, I steam fish. In Jamaica we do a lot of steamed and roasted fish. Good seasoning, though — the seasoning is the most important thing because I like flavor. It has to have good flavor — I need a little kick, a little spice... flavor.

And how do you most often add that?
Well I use what I grew up with. You know, in Jamaica we use a lot sof spices. I think you guys call it all-spice. We call it pimento... pimento seeds, crushed. You call it scallion, we call it green onion. You guys have different names for these things in America than we do. Lots of garlic! Garlic. Thyme. We use thyme, garlic, green onions, peppers, some salt, and anything that will add flavor to the food, man. Those are the basic seasonings, the green onion, onion, garlic, pimento, thyme, and pepper.

You've said previously that growing up as a kid, "We had the garden, we had the ocean, and we had the farms. Everything was fresh and everything was organic." What kinds of things do you remember eating from the garden, the ocean, and the farms. What were the iconic dishes of your childhood?
I used to grow my food in Jamaica as a teenager in the garden. I used to eat a lot of cabbage, steamed cabbage. We used to have a lot of that. But the iconic food in Jamaica for us was going to the ocean early in the morning. The fisherman would come in with boats and we would help bring the boats in, we'd push the boats up on beach, and then we would look at the fresh catch that they had, and we would take whatever fish they had that we liked and then we would go running, and then when we'd get back from running, we roasted the fish right there on beach and had it for breakfast. We actually used the sea water as our seasoing because we didn't have all that other stuff.  So we would just pour a little sea water on the fish and that was it: ocean water and roasted fish.

You're also a vocal supporter of the Just Label It campaign, an effort to persuade the federal government to require that foods with genetically engineered or modified ingredients be labeled accordingly. Can you talk a little about how people can be more aware about this issue in their daily lives?
I mean you just have to educate yourself. Do research. The Internet is a great tool for that now. And you have to be aware of what you're putting in your body because we don't know the effect of GMO foods that have been modified genetically on our bodies, and our childrens' bodies. I think maybe 10 or 20 years from now we'll find out this is what the GMOs did to us and we didn't know. Usually that's how things work unless we take a stand. You know? And have the freedom and have the choice of what to put in their bodies. The more knowledge people have the better. I don't understand why the information about the food should not be in your face and out front.

Do you think Jamaican cuisine is underrepresented in America? And should it be more popular?
Well, you have Jamaican cuisine and then you have the way we used to do it, which is Rasta cusiine. Rasta cuisine is a much more healthy way of cooking your food — less oil, more raw food, and just like a told you man, we'd go to the ocean and get a fish and roast it. That's Rasta-style cooking, which is still Jamaican, but it's derivative of the traditional style of Jamaican cooking. There are a lot of different elements to it — Chinese and Indian, for example — in Jamaican food. I think maybe it is underrepresented. And maybe one day I might open up a little joint. I'm thinking about opening up a little restaurant with some Jamaican food, but with a twist — with my twist on it. It's something I have in my mind.

Is there a specific place where you'd like to open up that restaurant?
Well, I think in Los Angeles. I would start there. It's just something in my head right now. I'm telling you for the first time. I haven't even told anyone. I'm still thinking about [laughs].

You've said, "The argument against marijuana is confusing and hypocritical and stupid. It is a natural resource that we should use." Obviosuly America is making at least small steps toward marijuana legalization, and I was hoping to ask a few food related questions about that. You've said you cook — have you ever experimented with cooking with cannabis on your own?
In Jamaica we used to make tea. We made tea with the leaves of the plant. I would cook with it, but with the hempseeds, but I wouldn't cook with marijuana. We used to drink tea. That is how I use it.

The Marley name is so deeply associated with cannabis  are there foods/recipes you favor which include this? Anything passed down?
Just tea. We never even cook with it in Jamaica. We just drink the tea.

Is there something that you like to eat when you're high?
Not really. Usually if we're smoking marijuana, usually we'll listen to some music. It's very spiritual thing for us  It's for meditation. I think about deep things. I don't smoke marijuana... I'm not a chain-smoker. It's a very special thing. It's almost a ritual. And rare. I don't smoke herb every day. That's not how it's supposed to be used.

What are your favorite foods when traveling?
Oatmeal. Yeah, that's my go-to food [laughs]. With my oatmeal I do lots of things with it though, you know? I add nuts and fruits. I don't buy that prepackaged stuff. I do my organic oatmeal. I cook it and then I add some almonds and some nuts and some frutis, and some flaxseeds. And I make it a really rich meal. It keeps me going for the day.

Any one brand of oatmeal that you favor? Is it steelcut oats that you get?
Just organic. I don't do the quick oats. I don't like the quick, one-minute oats.

What do you drink? Do you drink coffee? Water? Energy drink fiend? How do you keep going and hydrated between sets?
Water. I don't drink coffee.

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2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Read more articles by Arthur, or click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.