MICHELLE'S KITCHEN AND CATERING IN BURLINGTON NORTH CAROLINA

Michelle's Kitchen and Catering is my go to for everything from fresh seafood to chocolate chess pie to a special order birthday cake!  I am probably there 2 - 3 times a week and everyone in my family has their favorites!  I love the convenience of being able to pop in and decide what to have to dinner, or what to take a special event that I haven't had time to cook for.  I also love the fact that Michelle tries to use as much organic and local food as possible and that I can buy gluten free options for my daughter who has Celiac Disease.  The best part is that I almost never leave without a cookie to eat in the car on the way home!

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How long has Michelle's Kitchen been opened?

December will be our 7 year anniversary!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Burlington and moved to Asheville after college where I spent about 10 years in he banking industry before deciding to attend culinary school so I could do what I love to do, prepare food for others to enjoy. Before opening The Kitchen in Burlington, seven years ago, I worked at Fearrington in Pittsboro North Carolina.    It was a wonderful culinary experience to be around amazing International Chefs. During my teenage years, I loved experimenting with various recipes that I found in cookbooks around the house and enjoyed adding my own touch to try to make the dishes more exciting. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my Grandfather, who also had a love for cooking creative dishes.

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What is your vision for The Kitchen?

The vision for The Kitchen keeps changing and evolving.  I would love to have a place where people can come in and sit down for brunch or lunch.  For our catering we need a bigger facility and we have considered an offsite location.  We have so many customers say that they would really enjoy being able to sit down and eat so that has become a priority for us in the future.  Our customers want healthy, but fast food.  We even have people who are on their lunch break and in a hurry so they will call in and ask if we can heat a piece of salmon!  We are happy to accommodate special requests like that because we know how important it is for them!

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Have you considered carrying packaged gourmet food or wine in the future?

I have considered the possibility of carrying a selection of homemade frozen breads.  People always say "I've got my lasagna and salad...now all I need is the bread", it's a matter of having the space.

The Kitchen always looks so clean and organized and everything is so beautifully presented!  How do you keep it that way?

I am a neat freak and I insist that everything be neat all of the time!  The fish is always so fresh that you can never smell it.  I order fish for the following day and if it doesn't sell, we make salmon patties with it so it is always very fresh!

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Do you feel that people are asking for more gluten free and healthy options than they used to?

Yes, we definitely have more requests for gluten free and healthy options.  We also have had a lot of requests for diabetic options.  I have found that the Paleo Diet is the perfect option for diabetics as well as anyone that is just trying to eat a healthier diet.

We are planning to train our chefs to cook more Paleo and gluten free options in the future because the demand is so high.  People are new to what a Paleo Diet is in this area and we are trying to educate them about it.

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How many hours do you work every work?

I work about 50 hours on a good week but when it is  really busy it's more like 70 hours.  October through December are really very busy because of the Holiday Season while  April thru June are more busy for weddings.  We also have lots of corporate events during the day that keep us really busy.  We are already booked for May and October of 2016 which is very exciting.  People plan early especially when it comes to their caterer and the venue for their event.   May is also Elon University Graduation so that is an extremely busy time as well.

Did you think you would be so successful so quickly?

People depend on The Kitchen for really their busy and sometimes hectic lives.  I think that part of our success comes from having a good team of people working here.  People have been very supportive in the storefront because our customer service is very good.  Our customers have helped to promote the business by spreading the word about how much they love our food!  We have a lot of older clients that don't cook and they depend on us for their meals.

How many chicken pies do you make a week?

We make at least 12 - 16 chicken pies a day!  I does depends on the weather.  When it snows, we halt everything we are doing and start to make chicken pies because people want comfort food when the weather is bad!

What are your best sellers?

Our best sellers are Chocolate Chess Pies, Crunchy Chicken Casserole and Chicken Pies.   The Mac and Cheese runs a close second to the Chicken Pie.  We also do well with our gluten free and Paleo dishes.  Collards are really popular in the fall even for people who say they don't like collards!  My collards are not bitter because I use a dash of brown sugar!

Tell us about your long term vision?

As I said before, we are hoping to expand and serve brunch and lunch and possibly have a coffee bar although we're not sure about that yet.  We won't be full service, but I envision a place where you can order at a counter and are served your sandwich, soup, salad etc.  We will possibly serve wine but not I'm not sure about that yet!  I will continue the eclectic shabby chic decor.  I will always keep the the tried and true favorites on the menu but I plan to continue to expand my menu with delicious food for every taste and dietary need.

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I love your dish towel collection!

I have always collected dish towels!  When I opened, I wanted a window so I could see and talked to the customers coming in.  My dish towels became a half curtain and people love them.  I have gotten them in Asheville and Colorado and I have had customers bring in as gifts.  I have also found great ones at Anthropology and Just Be in Burlington.   They are such a part of my decor because I change them with the seasons!

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The Kitchen has a really good feel when you walk in the door . What is your criteria for hiring.

The people that I hire have to care about The Kitchen...it can't just be a job to them.  Being a foodie helps and some of my employees are while others are not, but the ones who are not foodies are great at customer service.  They want to see the shop grow and they really care about the customers.

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I loved the Qunioa with Wild Rice,  Summer Squash and Grilled Chicken that was on the menu this summer.  Will you do that same salad with winter squash?

Yes, you might just see it on the menu next week.  I love it when customers give me recipes and request things.  I try to incorporate requests into my weekly menu!    I love cookbooks and magazines and I am so inspired by them!  Saturday is day to experiment and try to come up with new dishes that my customers will love!

When will you start opening on Monday?  It is a long time between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday morning!

The door to The Kitchen is always unlocked but we don't advertise it.  We have thought about officially opening on Monday starting in January 2016!  Everyone always wants to come on Monday!

Have you ever thought about a satellite location?

Yes definitely!  We have a freezer space at the Feathered Nest in Greensboro that does very well!  Sometimes people will come to Burlington that live in Greensboro just to see what else we offer at The Kitchen!  We have also talked with Company Shops Market about carrying some of our prepared foods such as pimento cheese and chicken salad.

I am so excited to continue to watch Michelle's Kitchen expand and become even better!  Now I'm off to get goodies for the weekend from Michelle's Kitchen and Catering and don't be surprised if you see this Crazy Blonde riding down the road eating a Chocolate Chip Cookie!

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!