As part of our Q&A series, Morningsider brings you exclusive interviews with neighborhood “Insiders.” This week, we interview Melba Wilson, chef and owner of the eponymous Melba’s. The restaurant opened in 2005 to rave reviews for its menu of comfort foods, the cozy atmosphere and of course the woman herself.
We all know Melba’s is one of Harlem’s beloved restaurants. Tell us what makes Melba’s so special?
Melba’s is special because of the warm feeling you receive when you walk into the door. It starts with the server with the smile; the bus boy filling cups, the bartender that gives you a hug and most importantly the food is cooked with passion and love.
What was the inspiration behind Melba’s?
The inspiration for Melba’s came from being around Grandma Amelia and Aunt Sylvia as they fed and brought smiles to so many. I wanted to provide the same level of comfort through food at an affordable price in a neighborhood that I love so much.
We hear that you appeared on the View recently to promote your show on the Food Network. Tell us about the show?
Fat Chef has now turned me into a PHAT Chef. The show was a weight loss competition for Chefs — It was an interesting tough experience from which I lost 38 pounds!
Bobby Flay featured your Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles on his show, but besides that dish what other dishes are your favorite on the menu?
My other favorites at Melba’s are the delish Wine Braised Short Ribs, Country Catfish with Chipotle dipping sauce and the yummy Melba’s French Toast. Of course I am biased and EVERYTHING is good!
Do you have any special events or appearances coming up that you want to tell us about?
Last week we were on ABC, “The View” again, CBS Morning Show, Food Network, Bobby Flay, “3 Days Until Opening” The Tom Joyner Show and TV One’s “My Momma Throws Down”. I have a photo shoot for a magazine tomorrow and a magazine interview later this week. All of this helps to build the brand and I graciously appreciate it, but I don’t get lost in the hooplah. I understand that GOD is in control and I have a LOT more work to do!
When you’re not in the restaurant, what are some of your favorite hangout spots in Harlem?
Ginny’s Lounge, Island Salad, and Zoma’s for amazing Ethiopian food and honey wine!