RanDe Rogers basically grew up in this restaurant, but he never foresaw himself owning it as an adult. He was on the business track in college, and when he graduated from Tufts University in 2012, he planned to join his father's consulting business in North Carolina. However, his mother was struggling to keep Sisters Caribbean Cuisine afloat at the time, so he chose to help her, instead. Originally, the plan was for RanDe to handle customer service, social media, and to help expand the restaurant's capabilities. After a year, however, RanDe found himself taking on increasing responsibilities in the restaurant, including the role of chef. He had had a passion for cooking since childhood, so he relished the opportunity to run the kitchen.
The restaurant was opened in 1993 on 124th Street by RanDe's mother, Marlyn Rogers, who was raised in Guyana but emigrated to the US for college. She was one of fourteen siblings, some of whom helped her open and run the business in the beginning, which is what gave Sisters its name. By staying true to its roots, the family-owned business has stood the test of time.
During the summer of 2017, the Manhattan Sideways team had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with RanDe. Listening to his recommendations, we tried the jerk chicken, a Caribbean staple, as well as the oxtail stew, which RanDe told us is one of their most popular dishes. In addition, we sampled an array of their vegetarian options, including curried chick peas, mac and cheese, and even callaloo - a new, but delicious dish to several of us.
As RanDe shared his story, we learned that RanDe's mom never wanted to spend time in the kitchen at home when he was growing up, since she spent long hours cooking for her customers. His father was a banker who would come home from work too late to cook, so RanDe had to fend for himself. In retrospect, this is what allowed him to acquire some skills in the kitchen and to foster a love for cooking early on. Funnily enough, he was never partial to making the soul food that Sisters is known for, because he would get tired of eating the leftovers his mother would bring home. He maintains, however, that this encouraged him to learn other styles of cooking and to gain an appreciation for various cuisines, which gives him the versatility as a chef that he benefits from today.
Having taken over the day-to-day operations of the business, RanDe became the official owner as of January 2017 and has devoted himself to the restaurant, hand-selecting his staff and refining the menu. "With a bit more customer service and a bit more precision, we started seeing more traffic online and in the restaurant," he was pleased to tell us. His mother, meanwhile, continues supporting her son and the business by designing the aesthetics, including their floral centerpieces and the color of the walls and drapes - a red to match the warmth and flare of their Caribbean theme. Sisters has gained increasing acclaim, and it was even featured on the cooking show "Huang's World." The host and internationally recognized chef Eddie Huang recommended that Sisters be included in the lineup for the OZY Fest in Central Park.
When we asked RanDe whether he has enjoyed the unexpected direction his career path has taken, he replied, “All my studies never gave me anything as rewarding as making food.” He loves watching people eat and enjoy his restaurant, especially those customers who have been coming in since they were kids. “We treat everyone who eats with us like family.”