Dawn Skeete boarded a plane from Kingston, Jamaica on Good Friday forty-six years ago, to accompany her mother on a quest for a new life in the United States. In their newly adopted home in East New York, the family toiled in pursuit of the aspirations shared by countless other immigrants across the globe. Although Skeete did not intend on becoming a restaurateur until decades later, entrepreneurship had always been on her mind, imprinted by grandparents and relatives who long operated businesses of their own. A fortuitous path eventually led her to the helm of Red Hook’s Jam’It Bistro, a restaurant near the intersection of Columbia and Cole Streets that brings cosmopolitan flair to traditional Caribbean cuisine.

The charismatic proprietor’s passion for food was, admittedly, borne out of necessity during her youth. The eldest of seven children, Skeete initially took up cooking as a way to provide support for her mother, who worked seventeen-hour days out of a desire to send her children through to higher education. It was during this period that the young teen began to acquire culinary skills and recipes from elder family members, which reflected—in equal parts—their ancestral heritage and place within their multicultural neighborhood. This would later become a significant influence on the menu that Skeete has crafted for Jam’It Bistro, which offers Jamaican classics alongside soul food sides and fresh takes on Italian cuisine.

Jam’It Bistro is located at 367 Columbia Street, and is open for take-out and delivery while New York’s PAUSE executive order is still in effect. For a taste of Jam’It at home, Skeete’s generously offered up this recipe below.

Dawn Skeete Pantry Recipe: Healthy Salad

Ingredients:

  • Leafy greens, any of your choice

  • Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers

  • Celery

  • Carrot

  • Mushrooms

  • Beans of your choice, such as garbanzo, white or black beans

  • Penne pasta (optional)

  • Leftover baked or fried chicken (optional)

  • Jelly, preferably strawberry but any on hand, 1 cup

  • Water, 3 tablespoons

  • Olive oil, ¼ cup

  • Balsamic vinegar, 1 cup

  • Lemon juice

Instructions:

  • Slice and quarter tomato and cucumbers. Dice celery, carrots, and mushrooms.

  • Blend jelly, lemon juice, water, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

  • Mix ingredients and dressing with greens, and top with pasta and chicken if desired.

Community Lunch highlights the chefs and restaurant owners who have partnered with Pioneer Works on our weekly meal delivery program during the coronavirus crisis, as an adaptation of our Community Lunch and Happy Hour series. Furthermore, the current, nationwide plea for racial equality and justice has led many of us to wonder: what can we do, in our daily lives, that would lend meaningful support to our black neighbors? In addition to the number of ways outlined by activists and allies alike, one actionable item is to support the black proprietors in your community. In addition to Jam’It Bistro, which is located at 367 Columbia Street and is currently open for take-out and delivery, Pioneer Works recommends that you visit Black-Owned Brooklyn for a list of other black-owned restaurants, shops, and services in our borough to invest in a more equitable economic future in this country.