We are excited to have one of the most exciting duos at our first ever NyamJam Festival, kicking off on Saturday, November 14th (how exciting!). Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau (known around the island as Two Sisters and a Meal) are the executive producers and culinary hostesses for the popular web series Island Potluck, as well as a television series 2 Sisters & a Meal. The two are former restaurateurs and caterers, and authors of the 2014 cookbook Caribbean Potluck. Outpostings sat with the two sisters to learn how they manage to do it all—and still have time to cook dinner.
While the Rousseau family owned restaurants in Jamaica, Suzanne and Michelle actually began their careers in retail, opening Ciao Bella, a high-end retail boutique in Kingston. It wasn’t until their mother asked the two sisters to help run Cafe Bella, a family-owned restaurant located just next door to their retail shop, that the two ventured into the food industry. For two years, the duo split their time running the retail shop and the family restaurant. Cafe Bella was popular with the expatriate crowd, and the sisters realized that their restaurant business had the potential for growth.
While the sisters grew up cooking for family members, friends and in their family owned restaurants, they weren’t professional chefs—and that was holding them back. They decided to get formal training at The Culinary Institute of America in New York City. “When we started our restaurant, the hip food culture that exists in Kingston now was non-existent,” says Suzanne. The duo worked rigorously—dedicating long hours to training and opening a second restaurant—to personally create that culture in Jamaica. “We just rolled with it,” Michelle says.
When the sisters started their catering business later in their career, they decided to do something different. “At the time, no one cooked onsite, so we thought, why not do what no one else is doing? No one was preparing the meals from start-to-finish at the site of catering events, serving food like they would have at a restaurant,” Suzanne says. Michelle and Suzanne made sure they always deliver food that was hot off the stove, rather than preparing the food days before. “We were always innovating and creating the kind of food we wanted to share with our guests,” Michelle says.
While on vacation in New York City Michelle was introduced by chance to Joy Tutela, an agent from The David Black Literary Agency. “We had a book proposal ready. I showed it to her, and she signed us,” Michelle says.
If you don’t come to Kingston, you don’t understand Jamaica, the sisters tell us. The island isn’t all about resorts and beaches, and “that’s what gets lost in translation,” explains Michelle. “There’s a lot of good energy here. We always say the heartbeat of the island is here.”