Today we’d like to introduce you to Lavinia McCoy.
Hi Lavinia, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Normal Childhood (2 parent home – raised by my mother and stepfather) – Decatur IL
2 older brothers, 1 younger sister
Loved to read – gave me the opportunity to dream!
After graduating from high school, I joined the United States Air Force – saw places most people only see in books – traveled and experienced the culture/food – Biloxi MS, Enid OK, Philippines, Dover DE, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Omaha NE and settled in St. Louis MO future home of Gourmet Soul Restaurant and Catering.
While in the military I met my then husband had 3 wonderfully amazing children:
• Monique age 34 (followed in my footsteps – currently MSgt McCoy, United States Air Force)
• Marcus age 33 (IT professional – has professionally worked for Tori Burch, MGM Studios – currently lives in LA), also music connoisseur – produces and sings – RealNameMcCoy
• Marita age 30 (followed in my footsteps – currently TSgt McCoy, United States Air Force)
My marriage ended in divorce – I was at an unhappy crossroads. Being a mother was very fulfilling but professionally there was an unfulfilled yearning for MORE. I often wondered where life would take me. I remember my mother would go and have her fortune told and I remember her telling me she was told one of her children would be extremely successful (had no idea that child would be me). I never wanted to be a trailblazer just wanted to follow a normal path…but life kept telling me, “you have only scraped the surface of all you have dared to dream”. I never anticipated the incredible mark my culinary landscape was about to leave on my life!
Straight out the military after 13 years – I worked for Union Pacific Railroad (Omaha NE) making a wage and doing the work! At some point after being away from home for so many years – I had the desire to be closer to friends and family – my mother now lived in St. Louis, MO – so now St. Louis was to become home.
Once is St. Louis; I got a job with a not-for-profit organization – pay was minuscule, but the teachings were huge. As an Operations Specialist, I was taught to be exceptionally well organized and practiced in conducting business at the highest level of professionalism. I soon learned I had a true passion to see things come to fruition, my creative niche – Coordinating!
I have always loved to cook; I would spend hours watching Julia Child’s on tv. Countless hours in the kitchen watching my grandmother. Flipping thru cookbooks front to back…. asking my mom to purchase ingredients for cooking. Everyone can read a recipe but not all can follow a recipe. I had the ability to follow a recipe to completion.
I didn’t retire from the military, I never finished college, I never finished cosmetology school…. I was determined to finish culinary school – and I DID! I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts in July 2012 with a degree in Culinary Arts, my mother finally got the opportunity to see me walk across that stage!
I couldn’t help but to recall over and over again something our Chef said on our first day of school, “the food industry is a billion-dollar industry”! This was burned into my mind. My life was on the uptick, my credit score had rebound. I read an article by David Steward (founder of World Wide Technology, one of the largest African-American-owned businesses in America. According to Forbes, in 2019 Steward was one of 13 black billionaires worldwide) that said, “when an opportunity presents itself, capitalize on the opportunity as that opportunity may never present itself again”. This had become my philosophy! A fellow classmate had told me of a restaurant for lease in downtown St. Louis, I inquired! When I put the key in the door of what was to become Gourmet Soul Restaurant and Catering, I felt such a sense of accomplishment! I had become my Own Boss! I remember Oprah saying, “you have to do the work”! I’ve done my work and then some – it’s been years of hard work, dedication and learning from my mistakes.
In the words of Hilary Clinton, to all that are dreamers – never doubt you are powerful, you are valuable, you are deserving of every chance and every opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams!
Gourmet Soul is my lovechild – a soul food restaurant, catering and event venue built on the foundation of quality food and impeccable service. We cook with creativity, infusing ingredients both common and extraordinary to fascinate and delight the taste buds of our customers.
Thru dreaming I have become a dynamic and accomplished caterer and event planning professional. A restauranteur who is exceptionally well organized and practiced in conducting business at the highest level of professionalism.
Gourmet Soul Restaurant and Catering has not only survived the pandemic – we have thrived.
My goal for Gourmet Soul is to be the first black-owned upscale fine dining restaurant in the St. Louis region.
Never give up! Dreams do come true!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Nothing about being a restauranteur is easy, long days, endless nights. Burns, scars, aching back, aching feet.
Post COVID – finding and keeping employees.
Financial demands and obligations – food and supplies have doubled in cost.
We women started this cooking thing but some where along the way it became a male dominated industry. There’s no denying it: Professional cooking is a male-dominated sport. It isn’t easy to earn respect in the boy’s club environment of most kitchens.
According to Ann Cooper, author of A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs, a full 45% of people working in the culinary industry are women, yet women hold less than 10% of the top positions.
In the very demanding cosmos of the professional kitchen, it takes a certain type of personality to make it as an owner/executive chef in a restaurant. It requires dedication and perseverance. Women especially must be doubly committed.
I’m here to change the landscape, the stigma! We have not shattered the glass ceiling but someday soon we WILL!
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Gourmet Soul?
Gourmet Soul is a soul food restaurant, catering, and event venue built on the foundation of quality food and impeccable service. We cook with creativity, infusing ingredients both common and extraordinary in order to fascinate & delight the taste buds of our customers. Gourmet Soul is passionate about presentation and providing customers with unforgettable meals. We have a people-first mentality, welcoming people of all backgrounds to visit our fine establishment. Our staff members are highly respected, appreciated, and regarded as family. We are a proud St. Louis restaurant that is committed to supporting our community through various outreach and social cause endeavors. We are a definitely a St. Louis restaurant staple that you must experience for yourself!
We describe ourselves as an Urban Soul Fusion. The interior of the restaurant is aesthetically pleasing (modern/urban).
Best known for our Fried Salmon over Coco Rice, topped with a Cajun Cream Sauce.
I think my biggest accomplishment to date was having the opportunity to feed the 2nd Gentleman, Doug Emhoff (Kamala Harris).
I have been in numerous publications, i.e. New York Times, Thrillist – and recently named #1 Soul Food Restaurant in Missouri by MSN.
What was your favorite childhood memory?
Going to see my Grandfather and Grandmother. Holidays – dining with the family over a soul food feast.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: gourmetsoul.com
- Instagram: gourmet_soul
- Facebook: gourmetsoul314
- Twitter: gourmetsoul314