Michelle Brooks cooks the way her Southern-raised parents taught her while she grew up in Seaside.
Her parents owned a restaurant before she started Michelle’s Soul Food Kitchen around four years ago, and everything in her kitchen is cooked from scratch in the traditional ways her mother prepared them. For now, Michelle’s pops up on Thursdays and Fridays at the Retired Men’s Social Club in Seaside. She has hopes to expand into a permanent location.
Weekly: What does soul food mean to you?
Brooks: Basically when people come here I’m treating them like I’m really cooking out of my kitchen, so I want them to get the best of each taste.
How did you find this kitchen?
One of the gentlemen, he was the president here and he knew my parents cooked everywhere. So then he heard I was cooking, and [after] he passed away – rest in peace – his wife was the one who said, “Yeah, let’s bring her over here.” I came over and I’ve been here ever since.
You have pretty much the only soul food restaurant in the area.
If more people knew about it I think I would be more busy, but when people know something they kind of keep it to themselves. It’s like their special secret, I guess.
What is one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had serving at the Social Club?
When people say, “She’s the one cooking?” like I’m supposed to be like an old, fat lady or something. And they go, “Well where are you from?” and I go, “Seaside.” They say “Well, no you can’t be,” and then I have to say, “Well my dad is from Tyler, Texas and my mom is from New Orleans and I just put it together and made it a Seaside, California, thing.”