Rhythm & Views by Malik Stevens

Chef Etta Samuel, at left, and helper Virginia Pina, at right.


Last month the Gifft Hill School was lucky enough to acquire one of the island’s best cooks to manage its school store — Etta Samuel.

Many people might already know of Etta’s cooking — or her gift from God as she refers to it — from years back, when she had a food van behind of the Human Services Building.

She left for the states in 1999 where she lived for the last eight years working as a manager of a Denny’s restaurant. Upon her return last year she began to cook at Tamarind Inn where she still works on Tuesdays and Thursdays after satisfying the stomachs of the Gifft Hill School students.  

One thing more mind boggling than her food is the way she became the store manager up at the Gifft Hill School. Etta’s husband was at the school’s campus a few weeks back when he discovered the school’s vacant kitchen and store.  

Right away, he realized an opportunity existed. He went to the head master of the school, Benjamin Biddle, and told him of the mighty powers his wife has with food. In a matter of two weeks Etta was at the school cooking.

This was a blessing to the school, because the school had gone without lunch for two weeks after former school store owners Moe and Melanie left the school and moved on to better opportunities.  

Etta’s First Week
Upon Etta’s first week at the school business was tremendous. The food was always running out and there was always a line to wait in for food. The students were practically fighting for the last johnny cakes and pátes. GHS students love the food and Etta loves the students.

“I love them,” she said. “They are awesome.  They behave well and they are extremely well mannered.”

With the assistance of her right hand lady Virginia Piña, who has been with her for years, Etta has brought mouth watering foods to the school for only six dollars a plate (which includes a drink).  

Everyday there is a variety of dishes for the student to choose from. Etta’s dishes include pátes, johnny cakes, ribs, chicken, fish, lasagna, salmon balls, seasoned rice, plantains, etc.

“It is like Joe’s BBQ times two, but for half of the price,” said seventh grader Maggie Wessinger.

Etta’s Plans
Etta has made it clear to the students that she is always open to suggestions and she is going to try her best to please everyone.  

“As long as the kids support me, I will definitely remain here and provide them with nice hot meals,” she said.

The Gifft Hill School is exceptionally happy for its new cook and the students feel they have the best school lunch in the world.

For those not fortunate enough to attend the school and get a taste of the yummy food, do not forget she still creates her cuisines at the Inn at Tamarind Court on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because Etta’s cooking is something no one should live without.