NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - [Editor's note: This venue is closed indefinitely as of 12/27/2019.]
When Millie Peartree's baked goods became the highlight of the office party, she decided to leave her corporate job for the world of food.
She began catering and ultimately opened Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food, where she serves recipes passed down through generations and generations of family.
Her original location in Fordham Manor was a takeout-focused spot with three stools. With an outpouring of community support and a growing fanbase, she was able to move the operation next door, a space double the size, with plenty of room for dining in.
Peartree was raised in Harlem and the Bronx in a Southern household—her father was from Georgia, and her mother was from North Carolina. The food they shared at home was typical Southern fare.
"The main standards, I think, in a Southern kitchen are macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, and potato salad. So you'll have that during family celebrations, Christmas, Thanksgiving," Peartree said.
Her mother, also named Millie, was the first to teach her to cook.
"I used to always follow her into the kitchen, and she always encouraged it. And I wanted to go to culinary school, but she told me she's not going to pay for something I already know how to do," she said.
Guests don't mind waiting for her food, which is cooked to order.
"It just warms the soul to actually have something that's down-home and slow cooked," she said.
Peartree's cooking secret?
"It's not about what it is. It's how you do it. So anybody can make macaroni and cheese. Anybody can follow a recipe. However, if you don't take the time and put the love into it, it's not going to come out the same as somebody else's," she said.
She appreciates the opportunity to spark conversations with a meal.
"People will tell you anything over a plate of good food," she said.
Her restaurant is a destination both for Bronx locals and visitors.
"We have our congressman down the street. They support," she said. "Everyday working folks, MTA, this is where they start and end a lot of their shifts, so they come in during their lunch breaks."
Connecticut resident Stassia Lue makes sure to stop by the restaurant for macaroni and cheese every time she's in town.
"It feels like you're going to your aunt's house to have some good Southern food," devoted regular Nikky Marie said.
As a business owner, chef, and boss, Peartree's career isn't always easy.
"From my experience, the hardest part is trying to manage it all. There's no shortcuts," Peartree said. "However, I wouldn't change it for anything in the world."
Despite the challenges of small business, cooking calms her.
"My favorite thing about cooking is it takes me to a place like no other. So I can zone out. I can collect my thoughts," she said. "Some people run. Some people jog. I cook."
Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food
2558 Grand Concourse
The Bronx, NY 10458
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