Every week, Jah-Shea Sutherland and Denise Brown transform their apartment into an industrial kitchen serving Plattsburgh State students the taste of home.
Sophomores Sutherland, writing-arts-education major, and Brown, journalism major, are both full-time students with full-time jobs. They devote their one day off to preparing at least 40 meals while making some money on the side. Their business is Kartel Kitchen.
The idea started when the duo were making Jamaican food in their dorm freshman year. People stopped by the kitchen saying they would pay for the food which looked, smelled and tasted great.
So the two made a business plan. Once a week, they cook for anyone who requests a dish. They charge $10, but for a little extra, they add sides and deliver the meal themselves.
There was a little financial help from their parents at first with buying some of the necessary equipment, but now the two purchase ingredients themselves.
They do the work themselves too. Every Sunday, Sutherland and Brown are busy in the kitchen, Sutherland says. Between cooking, packing, delivering and cleaning, the whole day has gone by.
“It doesn’t feel like work to me,” Sutherland said.
Her grandmother taught her how to cook when she was 5, and since then, she’s had a love of cooking, especially Caribbean food because she and Brown are Jamaican.
PSUC students appreciate the culture and variety Kartel Kitchen brings to the campus.
“Having cultural food makes me feel like I’m not drowning in chicken tenders, fries and Subway every day,” sophomore Faty Sylla said.
Along with the variety, Sylla also appreciates a home-cooked meal.
“Campus food makes me homesick because I’m missing the food I would be eating if I were home,” Sylla said.
The Kartel Kitchen’s Instagram page showcases the variety they offer. For their last batch, the two cooked fried shrimp, fried chicken, collard greens, baked mac and cheese, cornbread and candied yams. A few weeks before that, honey teriyaki barbecue wings were on the menu.
This Sunday Kartel Kitchen is serving Caribbean style jerk chicken and jerked jumbo shrimp with rice, peas, and smoked cheddar baked macaroni and cheese. For the first time, they are serving a ginger punch for purchase with a meal.
Senior Naja Franklyn ordered from Kartel Kitchen after tasting her friend’s dish.
“It’s nice having a cooked meal especially being away at college because you’re so prone to just settling for fast food,” Franklyn said. “ Having a cooked meal is not only enjoyable but healthy.”
Franklyn and Sylla both said that Kartel Kitchen’s macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are their favorite meals.
For all of their work, the two are making a profit. Sutherland said before the earnings are split between them, the total is comparable to her weekly paycheck from Chick-Fil-A.
While this is an obvious bonus, Sutherland appreciates the joy their cooking brings students. She loves to see the faces of the loyal customers who have been anticipating this meal all week.
After a tough work week, Sylla said Sunday mornings are a good time to treat yourself to something good.
“I rely on them to feed me every weekend,” Sylla said.
Eventually, after Sutherland and Brown have finished college, they hope to open a full-scale Kartel Kitchen to reach even more people. But until then, they are happy to serve PSUC.
“People say it tastes like home,” Sutherland said. “I don’t think it’s the food that tastes like home; it’s the love.”