Mai Burnette is an author, award-winning Global Business Strategist, chef, Women’s Advocate, entrepreneur, and inspirational speaker. Mai is also the founder and CEO of the Women’s Empowerment Network (WE Network) and owner of Mai’s Kitchen Food Service, serving authentic West African cuisine to the United States and the rest of the world. Since launching Mai’s Kitchen Food Service, Mai has been featured on Travelnoire Lunchtable, Femme, and Nue Baltimore where she’s shared some family recipes from West Africa.
As a mother of a teen daughter, she wanted to ensure the younger generation understood how to make authentic food from Africa as well as open up the dining experience to African Americans. This is what led her to write her first book Cooking with Mai: Easy to Prepare West African Food. Her passion for food was inspired by her grandmother and her mother, who taught Mai how to cook as a young girl. Being that Sierra Leone is rich in culture, much different than the United States, Mai wanted others to get a taste of her home from their own kitchens.
Please tell us about the Women’s Empowerment Network.
Mai: Starting in 2018, I created the Women’s Empowerment Network as a way to bring strong women together. What started as a single brunch to bring some great women together blossomed into a constant network of women supporting women. Our annual brunch is now an event we all look forward to. Additionally, I give an award every year that honors the message of women empowering women.
What inspired your love for cooking?
Mai: My grandmother and mother loved to cook, so I grew up looking up to them. As a young child, I learned that food brings people together, and I love to be around people. This love for servicing others and bringing people together is the biggest reason that I enjoy cooking so much.
Favorite dishes to make?
Mai: My favorite dishes to make are Jollof Rice and Cassava Leaf. Jollof Rice is a stew made with rice, chili peppers, and meat or fish and Cassava Leaf is a stew made with Cassava leaves, meats, and rice or fufu. Both dishes use a combination of different spices to add flavor and heat. They are included in my book Cooking with Mai: Easy to Prepare West African Food.
How do you use your business/brand to inspire others?
Mai: My main goal is to show others that anything is possible. It is important to not only envision the things you want to accomplish but to work hard to achieve them. Most things worth accomplishing take hard work and tenacity. I hope that my journey creating this business proves that hard work and determination pay off.
What do you want your legacy to look like?
Mai: I hope that when people hear of me and my business they see a person that made an impact not only as a chef but an empowering woman. I want to inspire others to follow their dreams no matter how big or small. When I read reviews online or receive feedback from my guests, I am humbled by the impact my efforts have made thus far. I can only imagine what my future plans will inspire in others.
Keep up-to-date on Instagram @mai_burnette
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Multimedia Creative and Personality Tammy Reese is an award-winning Writer and Journalist. Writing and Directing short films on social issues to spread awareness through the arts gained Tammy the Makers: Women Who Make America Award honor on International Women's Day 2019. Tammy currently serves on the Communications Committee for New York Women In Film and Television. She is also the Founder and Owner of Visionary Minds Public Relations and Media.