Houston’s culinary profile has increased in recent years. It’s home to some of the most diverse and unique dining experiences. The city’s expansive list makes it a challenge to figure out which cultural cuisines to immerse yourself in. But thanks to local creatives like Chef Vicky V, navigating Houston’s flavorful culinary culture has never been easier.
Chef Vicky V, popularly known as The Queen of Yum is a powerhouse chef, food stylist, influencer and Black restaurant liaison whose vibrant personality and engaging content around food has garnered more than 17,000 Instagram followers who she calls ‘Yum Crumbs”. Her love for Black culture, people, and businesses has led partner with many regional and national brands curating aesthetically pleasing food media and programs such as Houston Hosts Black Bloggers, showcasing the best of Houston’s Black dining, Black tastemakers and social media entrepreneurs.
The Defender spoke with The Queen of Yum to talk about her culinary journey and the impact her work has had in Black Houston.
Defender: Who is Chef Vicky V outside of the personality everyone has grown to love online?
Chef Vicky V: I’m a lover of people, a lover of travel, a lover of the Black experience. I live life to the fullest. I’m the great connector and that’s what I do. I’m a hustler by nature. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial heart and spirit and I’m super creative. Those are the intersections that birthed who I am today.
How did you enter in the world of culinary arts?
Chef Vicky V: I didn’t know I was going to be in culinary. I went to college on a track scholarship. While I was in college, I flunked out because I was doing too much being too social. Back then there was a TV show called ‘The Biggest Loser’ and I [figured] I should try out for the show. I got on the show (season 9), and during the show, a friend of mine took me to New York to go to Plus Size Fashion Week and thought I would be perfect for it. I always wanted to be a plus size model. [Eventually] I moved to New York to model for a while and then I moved to Philadelphia. My mom said “You’re 22 years old, what are you going to do with your life?” I had no clue. I thought I was going to be in journalism or TV. I took two weeks and I really thought about my life and it hit me. In college I was an athlete and I would cook for all of them and have big old parties at my house. I remember when I was little at my grandmother’s house, I would be with her at the stove and cooking stuff and playing with her pots making mud pies with my sister. I need to be a chef. I applied to culinary school and within two weeks I was enrolled in school. I moved back to Houston in 2013, and ever since then I have literally just been doing things within the culinary space.
What did you learn as a trained chef in Philly that helped you navigate successfully when you returned to Houston?
Chef Vicky V: It gave me organization. I was already a creative when it came to food. I’ve always been a creative so no matter what space I’m in, I’m going to create. I think that is why I’ve been so successful. It gave me a foundation when it came to French techniques of cuisine. It opened my mind to exploring techniques of cuisine which gave me a strong base as a chef.
What did you feel you brought to the Houston food scene that you weren’t seeing?
Chef Vicky V: I lived in New York. When I got here [Houston] it wasn’t hard to zero in and create these cool dishes that people had never tried before because I had already been playing with what I’ve been taking from the culinary space in the east coast. Houston makes it so easy. That’s one of the unique and beautiful things about Houston. It easy for people to come here and many a lot of money. We’re going to support; we are foodies and we come from a space [that is] multicultural so our pallets are a lot more open.
Building a successful presence as a food media personality isn’t easy. How were you able to build your brand? (network/equipment) time/money/team)
Chef Vicky V: Everybody can do anything. The only thing that separates me from anyone else is I’m nice to people. I create relationships. I’m genuine. I don’t create relationships to gain. I create relationships with people who end up being somebody and can open the door for me. I don’t burn bridges. Someone who seems insignificant can be the game changer in your life moving forward. That has happened consistently over time for me.
You also help brands with their business as a food stylist? What is that?
Chef Vicky V: Food styling is just making look good for media. Making people want to eat whatever it is that you take a picture of. Food has a lot of dimensions in depth. You want to style for your shot. You want to invoke the senses before they even get to taste it. Make people eat with their eyes. I was a horrible platter coming out of culinary school. I put too much stuff on my plate. I like everything, but you can’t have it all when you style food. This is something I stumbled into. Grub Hub was my first food styling job.
Defender: How have your event contributed to the Black renaissance that is happening in the city?
Chef Vicky V: I’m so excited for Houston because we have something really unique and that is the support of other Black businesses as a unit. It’s not perfect but it’s there. I started a culinary tour of Third Ward in 2019 right before COVID hit. I took people on a culinary and historical tour. We stopped at a lot of different restaurants. Houston Hosts started when I met KJ Kearney of Black Food Fridays on Clubhouse. We’re talking about talking this tour and him and KeAndre’ from My Southern Brand are good friends and KeAndre’ said if he could come on the tour and I said if we are going to go on tour, why don’t we invite other influencers? That is how Houston Hosts was born. I’m so grateful to everyone who participated.
What’s next for you?
Chef Vicky V: I’m growing Houston Hosts. I’m going to figure out what is next for the Queen of Yum personally as a brand, as a business woman, and seeing where I can make the most impact. Houston Hosts is where we bring people to Houston to let them experience Houston through the eyes of Black owned businesses and cultural experiences in Black excellence. I want it to be the ‘Essence’ of Black Houston. When people think of southern hospitality you think of that.