“I enjoy making people happy with food. I think food is the best remedy to happiness.”
As I nervously drove from my grandmother’s house located in Queens to the Brooklyn apartment complex, a thousand thoughts ran through my mind. After all, this was the first major interview that I’ve done. I entered the building filled with anxiety, questioning myself; “will she be open to talk about her life with me”. All of my jitters flew out of the window as I walked into the quaint apartment however, when a kind face greeted me like I was a family member.
“Taste this sauce! I’m making tequila lime wings!!”
Raised in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Dalal Monroe says she started cooking at the ripe age of thirteen, which stuck with her throughout her adult life. “I watched my mother get up make breakfast for my father every morning”, says Monroe. “She’d pack his lunch everyday for him, so I felt like I had to do that as well.” As soon as Monroe graduated high school she moved back to New York, her original birthplace, in an effort to create a new life for herself. What she wound up encountering were experiences that she never could imagine, which helped mold her into the multifaceted woman that she is today.
The candid chef opened up to us about her life’s trials and tribulations – more than what was expected. She recounted to us the struggles she faced while trying to reach her goals in the culinary industry as not only a woman, but a woman of color. “It’s good because not only am I those [an woman of color] as you mentioned, I’m also a two time stroke survivor”, she replied. “Cooking for me is more than a job. it’s my therapy” After the passing of her father and surviving two strokes in 2011, Monroe has defied all the odds against her; proving that you can truly turn any negative into a positive.
With someone as talented as she is, she attributes her training to trial and error. “I travel for food, I’m a foodie so also the fact that I cook so much, I go to these places once and I may never go again, so I copycat the recipe.” By visiting different restaurants in her neighborhood and observing the unique styles of each chef in every one, it gives Monroe practice to replicate the dishes with her own twist. Google has also become a huge in helping her her to find new recipes to try. “I google everything. I have recipes in my phone people hit me up for recipes all the time.” Knowing that she has such an amazing talent, Monroe turned her passion into a career. She states “if you love your job you’ll never feel like you’re working.”
After taking heed to the feedback that she received from family and friends, Monroe decided to start her latest business, Little Love Catering. “I have a God Daughter and her father was like ‘cater my baby shower’,” she states as she continues to plate the tequila lime wings. “That was my first job. The food that I cooked, was the first food to go. People kept telling me ‘You should cater, you should cater!’ So that’s what I did.” While it seems that the business side of cooking can be tedious and taxing at times, Monroe doesn’t see it that way. “I’m broke so I understand,” jokes Monroe. “Tell me your budget and I’ll cook from there.”
Monroe also attributes her success to her spiritual connections and belief in God. Living in the south, with a deep religious background, she tells us that her mother dreamt of her before she was conceived. “God gave my mother a vision,” she states, “I may not have grown to how my mother would want me to but I’m making her proud.” Monroe says although she’s been in a few battles certain people in her life she still has love in her heart for everyone. Spreading love whether it be through cooking, prayer, or support, “I pray for my enemies, I’ll never wish bad on anyone.”
As her two adorable daughters come into the living room pretending to be royalty, the devoted mother explains to us why she loves having the opportunity to watch her kids everyday while still maintaining a business. “I get to stay home with my kids, I can cook them breakfast, I take them to school, here when they come home.” She chuckles, “you miss out on their growth when you’re working all the time.” Although she does have her hands full with her family , she still makes time to still explore the city and retain her socialite status. “It ain’t hard to do. Anyone can do it all.” says Monroe “You can’t just sit around waiting for life to happen. You have to make the time.”
Cooking is surely a talent that not everyone possesses. Dalal Monroe has a story to tell – and through her passion she plans to share her positive outlook on life with any person that she encounters. “There’s no one stopping you” she explains as she runs back and forth between the kitchen and living room. “It ain’t hard. It’s really up to you.” And I couldn’t agree more.
Be sure to check out her site LittleLoveCatering.com to learn more about this inspiring woman’s story and to book her for your next catered event. For a peek into her daily life, as well as a glimpse of her amazing dishes, follow her on instagram at DalalMonroe.