Ones to watch: Michelle Trusselle

by Henry Coldstream 27 June 2022

Michelle Trusselle began her career cooking in classic fine dining kitchens, but the MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist has now made it her mission to elevate the Caribbean food that she grew up eating. We caught up with Michelle to find out more about her unique style, her inspiration and her ambitions.

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Henry is the features editor at Great British Chefs.

Henry is the features editor at Great British Chefs. Having previously written pieces for a variety of online food publications, he joined the team in 2021 and helps with all editorial aspects of the site. When not writing, Henry can usually be found eating and drinking his way through London's many restaurants and bars, or cooking in his kitchen at home.

There’s something incredibly evocative about the food one grows up eating; certain flavours can immediately transport you back to your childhood, while specific dishes are so often tied up with certain memories. Many professional chefs, however, use these memories of food growing up as inspiration for their food, whether that be certain dishes or an entire restaurant concept. Michelle Trusselle may have come up through the kitchens of some of London’s most classical fine dining restaurants, but more recently she has looked to the Caribbean food she grew up eating as inspiration for her supper club concept Myristica.

‘I’ve just been around Caribbean food since I was very young, so I always knew I wanted to cook it one day,’ says Michelle, ‘whenever there were family gatherings when I was a child, food was the main feature. Everyone would have their own specialities, like my nan’s Grenadian curried chicken, which they would bring to any gathering, and we’d just sit down and enjoy it all together. Those memories really stuck with me growing up.’

Although this early exposure to home-cooked Caribbean food and witnessing the joy it brought people was what first prompted Michelle to consider a career in the kitchen, her training was typically classical in nature. While training at the renowned Westminster Kingsway College, she realised that she actually enjoyed the technical side of French cuisine (‘I just found that formal approach where there’s a process to everything completely engrossing’), and was only further inspired when she had the chance to spend time working at the likes of The Savoy and Claridge’s.

Soon after finishing catering college, a position at Chiswick’s Le Trompette came calling and Michelle quickly became immersed in the world of fine dining that she’d fallen in love with, with the restaurant winning its first Michelin star while she worked there, ‘I think it was that level of detail that really appealed to me,’ Michelle explains, ‘everything had to be absolutely spot on but obviously still consistently taste amazing. I really thrived cooking that kind of food.’ Positions cooking in various other kitchens, both restaurant and corporate, soon followed for Michelle, including being head chef at McKinsey & Company, where she started to experiment a little more with her own style and put her own spins on dishes. But it wasn’t until 2018, when she entered MasterChef: The Professionals that she decided to fully pivot towards cooking Caribbean-inspired food.

Obviously cooking Caribbean food had been in the back of my mind for years,’ says Michelle, ‘but up until MasterChef I’d always had to be quite subtle with it because of the places I was working. Suddenly, I could go a bit more all-out with it and really showcase those Caribbean flavours fully. The feedback was amazing, particularly when Marcus Wareing said my food was "Caribbean royalty on a plate!" That competition was when I discovered that I definitely wanted to do Caribbean food.’

Coming out of MasterChef, Michelle’s mission became combining her love of precise, elevated cookery, which she’d discovered throughout her training, with the Caribbean flavours she was so familiar with. Despite Caribbean food already being relatively well-represented in London at the time, this elevated style of the cuisine was something she felt was lacking, ‘I wanted to show that Caribbean food isn’t all about that jerk shack vibe and isn’t always super casual,’ she explains, ‘it could be elevated to become a fine dining cuisine like French or Spanish. I longed for somewhere that I could get dressed up, be wowed by amazing Caribbean food and for it to feel like a real occasion. That was my aim – to try taking it away from the street food level.’

Michelle launched her own supper club concept Myristica in 2018, cooking the elevated style of Caribbean food that she’s so passionate about, and within a year her events were selling out. One of the keys to this popularity was ensuring that her food never lost the flavour, and even more importantly the soul, that she feels all Caribbean food should have. Michelle may use techniques she learnt in Michelin-starred kitchens to take her menu to the next level while also championing seasonal produce, but her priority is that her food is still recognisably Caribbean. 

‘It’s definitely a delicate balance between compiling dishes in a different way but keeping that authenticity,’ says Michelle, ‘but I think I’ve got it just right. It gives me goosebumps sometimes when people take me aside at the end of the meal, often elderly Caribbean people, and say ‘This reminds me of my grandmother’s food’, but equally it’s amazing seeing people try Caribbean for the first time and loving it. At the end of the day, I want people to come and have a really positive memory of Caribbean food, just as I do from my childhood.’

The success of Michelle’s supper clubs is proof that there is definitely a demand for high-end Caribbean cookery in London; her attention is now turned to finding a permanent home for Myristica, so that even more people can try her progressive take on the cuisine. In the meantime, as Executive Chef at the Royal College of General Practitioners she continues to flourish in the kitchen, bringing the odd Caribbean twist to the menu. Her biggest focus, however, remains bringing Caribbean food to a wider audience – something she did by creating meal kits during the pandemic, ‘I want everyone to be able to try Caribbean food at its finest, no matter where you are in the UK,’ she smiles, ‘I’ve started a spice range and only plan to do more TV appearances to encourage people to try cooking Caribbean food in their own homes but there are other plans going on behind the scenes.’

Michelle isn’t just a chef with a huge amount of skill in the kitchen, but one with a huge amount of ambition too, demonstrated by her commitment to making a success of Myristica while also increasing awareness of Caribbean food more broadly. If her success so far is anything to go by, it would come as no surprise at all to see Michelle leading the way in contemporary Caribbean cuisine in years to come.