When Elouisa Moulton left her homeland of Jamaica in November 1990, she was an ambitious single mother determined to live the American dream with her two young children.
Fast forward to 2011. Almost 21 years after Moulton first arrived in the U.S., her children are now successful young professionals who attended Ossining High School and completed college on academic and sports scholarships. And Moulton, who used to hold two nursing assistant jobs at a time to support her family, is now a proud restaurant owner bringing a taste of authentic Jamaican cooking to Ossining.
Since November, Moulton has been serving up dishes like curried goat, stewed oxtails, and steamed fish at her new take-it-to-go-style restaurant Pon Di Riva (That’s the Jamaican way of saying “On the River”). The small eatery at One Station Plaza, decorated with posters of Bob Marley on the inside and a Jamaican flag outside, has been buzzed about since Moulton opened its doors last November. In fact, Pon Di Riva has already been mentioned in The New York Times and other local publications.
It’s much more attention than the self-taught cook thought she would receive for preparing the recipes she first learned while growing up in St. Ann, Jamaica. “My mother used to cook a lot back home. I learned everything from her,” Moulton told us. “Then when I came here, I started to cook myself. I used to cook for people out of my house and do some catering.”
Cooking became more than a hobby for Moulton after she was injured while lifting a patient at a local nursing home. She reluctantly gave up the job she loved and the patients she had become attached to. “I had some good patients,” she says. “When they cried, I would comfort them. Those are things I miss.”
Though she will never forget her patients, Moulton is bringing joy to a different crowd these days. Her already-loyal customers are a mix of Jamaicans craving some back-home cooking and locals who simply want to try something new and affordable (Prices go up to $9 if you’re ordering a large of most items). Moulton says she arrives early in the morning and leaves late and night—especially to accommodate the schedules of workers from the prison and nursing homes. “They depend on me,” she said.
Elouisa Moulton is behind the business at Pon Di Riva at 1 Station Plaza in Ossining.