My name is Leilani Baugh. I am the Executive Chef and Owner of Magnolia Street Wine Lounge and Roux and Vine Catering Events. I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I am a wife, a mother, and a grandmother of three. I am a single child and grew up living between my two grandmothers, Joan and Willie Mae. They were both influential in my upbringing being of both Black and Chinese descent. This exposed me to an amazing cultural foundation that I stand on today. My grandmother, Joan (Chinese) worked in the sweatshops of Oakland Chinatown while my grandmother, Willie Mae (Black) cleaned the homes of rich white people. While my grandmothers were hard workers with humble beginnings, my grandfathers both were influential as well. My grandfather, Wayne, was an entertainer while my grandfather, Square, worked in the security industry. Growing up bi-racial was not easy for me as I witnessed my own grandmother being shunned for allowing her daughter to marry a black man. I stood next to both of my grandmothers in their kitchens and learned the craft that I live today.
Tell us about your business. What services do you offer?
Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen is located inside the historic Hotel California located on 35th and San Pablo in Oakland, Ca. Named after the street I grew up on, I create unique dishes that are a combination of my Black & Chinese heritage. I describe it as a mixture of both Creole and Asian flavors that I like to call “Casian” and pair each dish with delicious wines. These two perfect blends coming together are both simple and complex. www.rouxandvine.com In addition to sit down dining we also offer Roux & Vine Catering & Events. We can meet you at the office or curbside at our location.
When did you decide to start your own business and why?
For several years I was a Director with Pampered Chef - selling cooking tools. In 2013 I launched my first endeavor at selling food - Elle B Bites. I have always had a passion for cooking and serving and i kind of just fell into the business. I went from slinging plates in the back of my truck and out of my home to catering for large companies such as Deloitte & Touche, Reed Smith and McKesson. I didn't always know the business behind the business though. Slowly I started learning about the business and it grew from a side gig to where we are today. In 2019, I made the final step out of my corporate job in pursuit of my passion. Before i knew it, my food was getting out there and I was catering the NBA Finals for ESPN, TMC and NBC.
What would you say is the secret to a successful business?
Prayer and lots of it! Support from my family and the community has been heartfelt. I am so grateful for my daily customers and on-line followers. The word of mouth has been truly instrumental in my business growing while our curbside pick-up services have kept us going through this pandemic.
Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up?
keep fighting but many times I have felt like throwing in the towel. However, when another order comes in and another company calls me for a large party event, I find myself back in the kitchen doing what I love at 4am! Our business was greatly affected by Covid-19 as we are down over 400% from a year ago. Social media has allowed us to gain new customers and introduce our flavors to a new audience.
What was the biggest challenge that you have experienced owning your own business?
I’m too nice and care too much. It’s the people sometimes that come to take from you when you would have given it to them for free. Staff relationships are everything in this business. I’m here to encourage my crew and chef’s but at times we have different goals and agendas and it affects the business. Loyalty is everything to me and I am here to pour into my team and my customers.
Have you ever experienced negativity from those closest to you? family or friends? How would you encourage those who are experiencing negativity to power through?
Growing up I never felt “Black enough” or “Chinese enough” being bi-racial in the bay area. However, now I could care less. I now celebrate my background and represent it in the food I prepare and the wines I pair it with. (smiling) I put my foot into everything I do!
What are your future goals regarding your business?
I have plans to open a new restaurant in Contra Costa and I'm currently working on a new cookbook scheduled to be released in December. I have already been on the Food Network and am looking forward to having my own cooking show! That would be amazing!!
What advice would you give new business owners?
Sleep when you're dead! LOL Take naps and don’t give up!
Are there any success quotes you’ve adapted that you now live by that you want to share to encourage others?
It’s okay to feel like giving up from time to time but if GOD gave you a gift, it’s your responsibility to share it.
interviewed by: Samuel Thompson