#JustCurious with Chef Michele McQueen
CHEF MICHELE McQUEEN is a self-taught Oakland chef originally from New Jersey with over 20 years as a chef, restaurateur, culinary instructor and Live Demo Specialist. A graduate of Howard University with a degree in Business Administration, she was headed to law school until life took her down another road. This road led to the Culinary Arts where Michele was able to hone her childhood passion for cooking and turn it into a thriving career. Michele has been a featured chef on Food Network's Grill It with Bobby Flay, ABC’s The Taste and Food Network's Guy’s Grocery Games in addition to many local Bay Area television shows. She has a blossoming catering career, which includes such clients as Uber, EBay, Kaiser Permanente, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Oakland A’s, Oakland Raiders and well known celebrities. A Specialty Chef at Apple Inc., Michele leads a team that creates homemade entrées, vegetarian entrées and soups.
BFiO: Just curious. What is it like being a Black woman in the food business?
CHEF MICHELE: Being a woman in the food business is interesting on its own. Being a Black female chef in this industry makes you have to work harder to get noticed and not be boxed into a certain category or cuisine. At times it can seem like they only want one of us at the top. However, there are so many talented Black female chefs out there.
BFiO: What advice would you give to Black female culinary students or self taught cooks about being in the food business?
CHEF MICHELE: I would advise young Black female chefs/cooks to be true to themselves and their passion. Don't try to become something you are not to "fit in." Be strong and advocate for yourself. Be willing to sacrifice, work hard, work harder, learn all you can and align yourself with like-minded people. Find someone who cares and makes a good mentor for you even if they aren't in the culinary industry.
BFiO: Name 3 Black women chefs you admire.
CHEF MICHELE: Carla Hall, Mashama Bailey, Mariya Russell,
BFiO: How has COVID impacted your business?
CHEF MICHELE: My business came to a complete hault when the shelter-in-place started. All of my catering gigs were cancelled. After about one week, I had to pivot and move into a meal prep business. I've been able to hang on with the meal prep business and the business we receive from World Central Kitchen which has also helped to keep us alive.
BFiO: What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
CHEF MICHELE: If I wasn't a chef I would be a lawyer. I was applying to law school after I graduated from college before I ended up opening a restaurant with my ex-husband.
6 / What is your signature dish & what is it that you want people to know about this dish?
CHEF MICHELE: Although I hate to be locked in to one dish, I suppose I have to say my Signature Southern Fried Chicken. I am often asked for my chicken. I've worked hard at perfecting the process. From the brining of the chicken to the choice of flour I use to dredge it in. My Mother was always known for her fried chicken and I think I've made her proud of mine.