Do you know your work schedule weeks in advance? For a lot of people, the answer is yes. But ask that to private chef Gabrielle McBay and there’s a strong chance she won’t be able to answer. From preparing meals for clients to catering events, creating recipe videos, maintaining a strong social media presence and scouting out a location for her first restaurant, this Dallas native has a lot on her plate. Did we mention she’s only 26? But don’t get it twisted: She’s been in the kitchen since long before most of us could spell spaghetti.
“My family is super domestic,” McBay says. "I come from a lineage of cookers. Everyone was always in the kitchen, and I was always interested in why they were always in the kitchen. So I would have my little stool and sit there and talk and watch."
That curiosity led to a knack for baking, which led to entrepreneurship when she was just 14.
"I started making sugar cookies from scratch — that’s what led to me starting my company my freshman year of high school,” McBay says. "I went to DeSoto High School, but my sister and I were coming from an all-girls school. We used to get teased a lot, so I used to make cookies so my classmates would like me. My mom eventually started noticing ingredients were missing from the kitchen, so she made me start charging 50 cents a cookie. I never got in trouble for selling them because people liked them, even the principals."
From there, McBay's work ethic was born. After graduating, she went on to win Black Enterprise's Teenpreneur of the Year award.
“That’s when I was like, Oh, this is a thing now,” McBay says. “All my life as a kid and as a teenager, I’ve been into cooking. I’ve never lived a normal kid/teen life because I was baking and doing corporate orders. My first corporate order was with TV One and chef G. Garvin my sophomore year of high school. And G. kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot about the next level."
Many plates, mentors, TV appearances and cookbooks later, McBay is well on her way. And, like many chefs, one of her goals is to own her own restaurant — no easy feat, especially at her age.
“I’ve been applying to different spaces and neighborhoods and stuff so I’m excited about that," she says. "It’s difficult because I’m young, I don’t have credit and stuff like that, so the funding is a challenge. And also getting people to take me seriously, because Dallas is a very commerce-driven city.
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"Restaurant-wise, people want to know where you've worked and how long you’ve worked there. When I meet people or when they go to my website, I look like a young black girl that just graduated college. I’m just trying to find something that will match what I want to offer.”
McBay has her eyes on several areas, including Trinity Groves. And while turning this sweet dream into a reality is pertinent, so is self-care, because burnout is real.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of grunt work these past 10-11 years,” McBay says. “October will mark 10 years of me being in business, so I’m going to have a party with all of my clients, family and friends. I carry a lot of stress in my body. I have control issues with letting people work events for me when I’m not there or handling business stuff. Now I want to get into the restaurant side so I can be able to trust people with the vision so they can execute it, because I know that I can’t be a one-person show.”