Imagine growing up in a family with a deep appreciation for good food. Imagine being surrounded by fresh island eats and expert hands turning them into gourmet treats. Imagine traveling the world, immersing yourself in different cultures, learning more about different tastes and styles of cooking, living in food capitals where the street eats and gourmet all tantalize your tastebuds and excite you to infuse your own favourite tastes with your newfound knowledge. Enter, the Rousseau Sisters.
They are Jamaicans who grew up in a family of food lovers; mom Beverly was a great cook and entertained all the time, dad Peter was a real gourmet who exposed them to great restaurants and dining experiences in the Caribbean and all over the world. “Ours was a very social household! Our parents entertained regularly whether in the form of fetes, dinner parties or casual limes. We also cooked for our friends and had great dinner parties from very young. We hosted many a Jamaican dinner for our Caribbean friends throughout our university years,” is the response when asked about their first food experiences.
The sisters were born in Jamaica and have lived in Trinidad and Canada. If you’re wondering about their French name, their family came to Jamaica via Haiti in the 19th century. “Our great great grandfather Paul Lucien Rousseau owned a block/brick making factory. He had 3 children one of whom was our great grandfather Frederick Peter Rousseau, born in Jamaica c.1870,” explains the Rousseaus.
The sisters’ food career started when they were young as servers in a small cafe before going on to start their acclaimed food catering business. Authors of the book Caribbean Potluck and visionaries behind the television series “Two Sisters and a Meal,” the sisters are a passionate duo who bring to life their love for the Caribbean life, the food, the music, the art forms, the history and hope to share their version of the Caribbean in an entertaining way with other foodies and lovers of the Caribbean lifestyle.
Jamaica Experiences caught up with the sisters for a quick Q&A session. Here’s what they had to say.
What are some of your favourite Jamaican food experiences and associations?
The simple childhood pleasures of picking and eating a mango on a hot summer day with friends, or eating cane & drinking a coconut on the road, or stopping by the pan chicken man after a party at 3 am and standing around the car with your “bredrins” and killing the delicious chicken with soft hard dough bread when you’re “well under your waters” (ie very tipsy). All of these qualify as experiences we take for granted.
If you could spend a day with an acclaimed chef....who would it be and where would you take them in Jamaica?
Jamie Oliver – and we would travel around the island so he could taste authentic local ingredients and dishes and then we would ask Jamie to do a dish inspired by our travels and the flavours encountered.
As foodies, what's your favourite city in the world?
Every city has great food if you take the time to explore it – and for us good food is both street food and fine dining experiences. We love Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, London, LA, San Fran & NYC
If weight and healthy were not factors what's the most decadent meal you'd eat daily?
French Fries, Decadent French cheeses
What's your favorite dish (to eat)?
Authentic Brick Oven Italian Pizza with a glass of great wine.
You're asked to prepare dinner for Rihanna. What would you give her?
Not sure what Rihanna likes but I would want give her some of our unique ackee dishes like the ackee pasta, curried ackee wontons with papaya ginger sauce
What's the one spice or ingredient you couldn't do without in your kitchen?
How has your cooking been impacted by your regional and international exposure and upbringing?
I think it has made us appreciate the simpler aspects of Caribbean cuisine but also opened our palates to the flavours of the world many of which blend extremely well with our foods.
What's the one quintessentially Jamaican dish every visitor should try before they leave?
Ackee every way – with salt fish, without salt fish, in pasta, on a pizza
If asked to describe what Jamaican food is like to someone who’s never had it before, what would you tell them?
Jamaican food is the perfect balance of savoury and sweet with a nice dose of smoke and spice. Lots of robust flavour, from well-seasoned meats and seafood, one pot stews and soups and great roadside food most often cooked over a coal pot or wood fire.
The sisters have a cookbook called ‘Caribbean Potluck’ and have a television show called ‘Two Sisters & A Meal” exploring Jamaican cuisine with their own particular spin on it.
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