Jacqueline O’Donnell is one of the most recognisable figures in the Scottish food industry. Founder and head chef of The Sisters Jordanhill and Kelvingrove, the restaurants she owns with her younger sister Pauline, she can most recently been seen on the small screen representing Scotland in BBC show The Great British Menu.
Describing her style of cooking as “Scotland from the heart”. Every dish on the menu at The Sisters is made using fresh Scottish produce. In her words: “If Hector can’t get the scallops, or the boat doesn’t go out, that fish isn’t on the menu. It will not be a case of, we have it in the freezer or we buy something that’s not from Scotland, and use that instead. Our food comes from the pier to the table from the table to the plate.”
Jacqueline was inspired to take up cooking by her gran who told her to ditch boys’ subjects like languages and metalwork and study home economics to learn the skills needed to look after a husband. She excelled at the subject and went on to work as a pastry chef before opening The Sisters in Jordanhill and Kelvingrove with younger sister Pauline, Pauline’s background in hospitality inspiring the motto “big sister cooks, little sister serves.”
Granny’s influence still looms large in Jacqueline’s cooking, with childhood memories of picking rhubarb in the back garden for the night’s rhubarb crumble encouraging her to make the most of the food we have on our own doorstep.
Listen to Jacqueline talk about getting started in cooking to where she is today below.
“We are envied worldwide on the quality of food we have here,” Jaqueline said. “We should be absolutely shouting from the rooftops about how good Scotland’s larder is and the local produce we can use. We have the best waters surrounding this island that we live on, the coldest of waters that produces the best of the shellfish, the brilliant land that we’ve got the animals to grow on.”
“In the wee villages in Scotland you don’t just go to a supermarket and take something off the shelf. You cook what you land. I decided I would bring these guys, the fishermen and the farmers, into Glasgow. My menus come are inspired by what they bring me. They might phone me and say “I’ve got a van full of prawns, get the pot on.”
“90% of good cooking is good shopping. I only do the wee 10%. When you use fabulous Scottish produce from Scotland’s great larder you don’t need to do too much to it because the farmers and fisherman have looked after it. I would much rather what’s grown here, not flown here. The more people who do that, support the economy, the farmers and the fisherman, that’s what makes Scotland the better place to be.”
Listen to Jacqueline talk about ‘Scotland’s great larder’ below.
“It’s a massive honour to be picked to represent Scotland and show you can hold your own in such a fierce competition. It’s been a great journey, a hard journey, but I’m very proud and very chuffed to have been part of the whole thing.”
When asked to name her own favourite dish she cooked on the show, Jacqueline couldn’t help but return to bragging about her home country.
“Normally I’m more of a pudding person but as we are so spoiled with fish I would say the dish I loved on the show was the fish dish. (“Black Market Silver Darlings,” made with herring, pickled cucumber and whisky served in a hay bale presentation). It told a great story and it had real Scotland behind it, from the food to the whisky.”
“But let’s not get started on Scotland’s great whisky – that’s a whole other story.”