Spreading the love

Newton ‘Sipho’ Merritt

Photo By dane stivers

Newton “Sipho” (pronounced see-poe) Merritt grew up in Jamaica, before moving to Los Angeles in 2001 to attend school at L.A. Trade Technical College. He spent some time as a music producer, but still, Merritt wanted to do something else. He had been cooking all his life, as it was a family tradition, and his father, Kyso, is a renowned chef in his home country of Jamaica, having cooked for the likes of Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, and Merritt’s uncle, Jimmy Cliff. Merritt fell in love with Chico during a visit about a year and a half ago. With a whole lifetime of cooking experience under his belt, the 40-year-old Merritt eventually decided to move here five months ago and make his vision for Sipho’s Restaurant and Café a reality. He hopes to spread his Jamaican philosophy of eating healthful, but flavorful food—including curries, lots of spice, and vegetarian as well as meat dishes—to the rest of Chico. The restaurant, which is slated to open early next month, is located at 1228 Dayton Road, 895-1866.

What brought you to Chico?

I met a friend two years ago in the music business. So when I came here, I saw the vegetation, saw that it was lush, I saw the mountain ranges and stuff. Then when I went to Chico State, he kind of showed me around, and then I asked him if there was a Jamaican restaurant around here and he said, “No.” I said, “Hey, I think if we could get a small place, maybe we could do good business here because I would like to bring healthy, fresh food, and cook it with a lot of love here and bring some of my Jamaican ingredients here.”

What makes your restaurant worth coming to?

We are going to provide you with fresh, organic foods, organic vegetables, everything. Whatever food I’m preparing is like I’m preparing it for myself, or for a bigger audience. Always freshly cooked each day, going to be cooked with the intention of feeding people in a healthy way. It’s going to be like a spiritual healing as well, and it’s going to be done with all of the love that you can ever believe can be put in a pot.

What do you think will be the most popular item on your menu?

The lifestyle is not just a business for me, and the lifestyle is sharing with you the recipes that Jamaicans eat. We specialize in chicken because I see a lot of people love chicken. We specialize in curry chicken, jerk chicken. And also we specialize in fish, also vegetable soup. So one could come and get any of those things, any day.