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Local Livin’ –  Mr. Hill – The Roti King

Local Livin’ – Mr. Hill – The Roti King

A few days ago, I FINALLY made it over to the Lumberyard parking lot to check out the new food truck and pick up some of my favorite island cuisine for lunch.  Abdue “The Roti King” Hill officially opened his food truck for business last Monday.  And business, and the roti, has been very, very good.

Roti is one of the most popular and widely known cuisines of the Caribbean.  It is defined as an unleavened, griddled bread shell, similar to a cross between a pita and a tortilla, and originated in India.  The Caribbean style of roti is predominately made with a chick pea or whole wheat flour and is filled to overflowing with a warm, curry spiced filling.  It generally boasts a goat, chicken or vegetables combined with potatoes and this delicious curried sauce.

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A perfect dough with an equally perfect filling.

There are two components for these burrito like treats take a lot of work to master and can be really spectacular or…Maybe not so great.  Mr. Hill has dedicated the past two decades to perfecting his dough and filling recipes and the result is one of the best roti I have ever tasted!  I stopped by to chat with him and grab some lunch on Tuesday.  He generously served up the chicken roti I requested in a to-go box, but asked that I come back the following afternoon for the interview.  I agreed and took my lunch home to enjoy it!

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I cannot tell you how excited I was to cut into this roti!

When I returned the next day at 3PM, the sign on the truck was flipped to reflect a warning that the rapidly popular spot was “Closed” despite the posted hours of 7:30AM-6PM.  Mr. Hill, however, was inside and quickly came out to join me in a shaded area in the side of the parking lot.  Almost immediately, a young man walked up behind me.

“We’re sold out of everything!” Mr. Hill told him.

Some big orders that day had depleted the food truck of its delicious offerings and people were not happy about it.  Mr. Hill smiled through the multiple folks that stopped by with similar inquiries as we sat and chatted.  It’s a good problem to have.

Mr. Hill arrived on St. John in 2012 and hails from Nevis.  He left Nevis in 1975 to relocated to St. Martin for a short spell where he got his first restaurant job at a place called Callaloo where he worked as a dishwasher.  He remained in St. Martin for 15 years before returning to Nevis to open his own restaurant of the same name.  The ever ambitious young man recruited a Ghanese gentleman he had met on St. Martin to make roti in his restaurant.  This inspired Mr. Hill’s quest to perfect that recipe and make it his own.

He spent 20 years playing with the dough recipe until it was “perfect.”  He makes all of the dough used in the food truck in his home in the evenings and early mornings, disclosing to me that, at 62 years young, he keeps his sleep schedule to less than 4 1/2 hours per night!

In his earlier years on St. John, he cooked breakfast and lunch at Caneel Bay Resort and spent time working in the deli and hot food departments at both Starfish Market and St. John Market.  In his time spent at STJ Market, he met a couple from Trinidad who were staying at the Westin and they got to talking about roti.

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The Roti King tells his secrets…But not all of them 🙂

“The lady gave me the technique…how to prep the chicken, how to prep the curry.  Which I will NOT disclose!” he laughed with a twinkle in his eye.

That day, he made up a batch of the filling using the techniques that the woman had explained to him.  They came back the next day to try the fruits of his labors.  He later found out that “this was no ordinary lady.”  The woman owned a lab in England where they developed their own spices.   The spice “scientists” gave Mr. Hill’s first attempt at their recipes two thumbs up.  And he hasn’t deviated from that recipe ever since!

“The scientists said it was perfect,” he smiled.  “And you can’t beat that!”

Mr. Hill takes great pleasure in perfecting his food and making people smile with his culinary skills.  His email holds the words “the food entertainer,” and I asked him about the story behind that.

“I take pleasure in treating people and people enjoying what they eat.  I entertain with my food.  A job well done is my biggest joy!”

In the eyes of this entrepreneur, the big red food truck in the Lumberyard is just the start of something.  He hopes to later franchise the business and sell his recipes to other ambitious culinary enthusiasts on other islands to expand his roti business.  His plan is to start with his own land on St. John, to then expand to the neighboring islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix and then across the Caribbean to his home of Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Martin….The Roti King must have his empire.

“One of these days some big guy will come and knock on my door and want to strike a deal.” he laughed.

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The truck is located in the Lumberyard parking lot, between Dolphin Market and Drifter’s Tiki Bar.

For now, Mr. Hill is serving pates and johnny cakes until noon each day and dishing out roti in the chicken, goat and veggie varieties all day…Until its gone.  But don’t stop by on a Sunday.  The truck is only open six days a week because this energetic and ambitious man needs some rest!

As we were wrapping up our chat, another hopeful patron approached the truck on a motorcycle.  Mr. Hill waved him away saying “Tomorrow Again.”

Thank you, Mr. Hill, for the amazing lunch and for taking the time out of your busy day to tell me a bit about your story.  I hope all of you will make some time to stop by to taste some of this delicious cuisine that he has spent decades perfecting!

10 thoughts on “Local Livin’ – Mr. Hill – The Roti King”

  1. OMG I can’t wait to get back and enjoy Roti King. We had the very good fortune to meet Abdua Hill in Dec. 2019 when on Thursday mornings (his day off from Starfish) he would make his way from St Thomas to St John and stop by Gallows Point around 9:30 with a truck full of deliciousness. The lovely ladies at Gallows Point had clued us in days earlier and so glad we ran into him before heading to the beach. Huge chicken rotis with a light delicate roti shell and amazing chicken & potato curry stuffing (with a good kick to it). So heavy it’s hard to finish, but so amazing that we managed to eat every bite (surprised we didn’t sink snorkeling afterwards). Fast forward to Dec. 2020 we were lucky enough our first Thursday to grab more chicken rotis but the 2nd Thursday we were too late (he already left Gallows Point) so we quickly got in the jeep and found him down the hill by St John Car Rental, only to find out he was sold out! I’m so happy that Hill has set up a food truck and I hope he does well. Such a hard working man and amazing chef. Good Luck, see you soon! Ed & Kathy

  2. The best Roti I have ever tasted. Mr. Hill used to drive by our house every Thursday, stop, and blow the horn. We knew it was Mr. Hill with ROTI. Love the veggie ROTI.
    Now we can get them any day of the week.
    Marlene and Bob

  3. Am really humbled by all of the kind words of encouragement and well wishes, from so many of my great friends, and visitors who stop by The Roti King Truck to meet me and support.
    Words can’t explain how much this means to me.
    Thanks to everyone for your love and support, it means everything to me.
    The Roti King.

    • Hello Mr. Hill! My daughter and I are visiting St. Johns the last week of April, and I plan to make you one of our first stops! Can’t wait!

  4. Hoping to fin you open Mr Hill. We just arrived in St John yesterday and love Roti!
    What time is best to make sure you are not sold out?

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