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How a Houston Elementary School Teacher Turned a Catering Side Hustle into a Comfort Food Goldmine

·3 min read

Patrice Farooq, owner of the popular Cupcake Kitchen Houston bakery and soul food restaurant, knows a thing or two about numbers, Southern cooking, and resilience.

The former teacher spent 15 years of her professional career teaching science and math to elementary school students in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) before taking a catering side hustle to innovative new heights in Houston’s Historic Third Ward!

“I started catering on the side to bring in extra money back in 2013,” said Farooq. “I would start my food prep in the evenings, get up at 4:30 in the morning to cook and bake, then head off to school to teach 4th and 5th graders all day, then come home and do it all again.”

Cupcake Kitchen
The Cupcake Kitchen Houston serves up fresh seafood and homecooked soul food Wednesday-Sunday
— Photos: David Settle

Born and raised in the Third Ward, the business-savvy teacher and self-taught chef launched the Cupcake Kitchen bakery, at 2533 Southmore Blvd, just a year later in 2014, with her own special recipe for cupcakes and delicious signature desserts like her famous triple-layer, Third Ward Classic Cake (a slice of Heavenly decadence that starts with a full homemade Strawberry Cheesecake, followed by a second layer of a whole Southern Pecan Pie, then topped with her signature Banana Pudding Cake and accented with fresh strawberries, pecans, vanilla wafers, caramel sauce, and fresh whipped cream)!

Cupcake Kitchen
The Cupcake Kitchen Houston serves up fresh seafood and homecooked soul food Wednesday-Sunday
— Photos: David Settle

In 2019, Farooq further expanded her business to offer savory Southern meals five days a week and opened a new in-house dining room in December of that year only to have the dining room shut down in March of 2020, due to the pandemic.

Like restaurant owners across the globe, Farooq was forced to pivot her business strategy or face going under. The veteran math and science teacher used her educational background in data, combined with some marketing ingenuity and social media savvy, to turn her homecooked seafood and soul food meals into a seven-figure comfort food gold mine!

“Even in the worst of what life dishes out, there are always blessings within,” said Farooq. “We created an online system for ordering to-go meals with curbside pick-up during the shutdown, and it’s doubled our business.”

Today, The Cupcake Kitchen has become a staple of the Third Ward, and one of the most popular go-to destinations for foodies in-the-know around Houston, and out-of-town fans, thanks to the restaurant’s Instagram page.

Farooq serves up fresh seafood and soul food, with daily rotations of true home-cooked Southern deliciousness made with love, featuring everything from oxtails, jerk chicken, and Mac & Cheese to crabcakes and salmon and shrimp bowls, with daily meal specials for just $10, and, of course, those wonderful signature desserts!

Cupcake Kitchen
The Cupcake Kitchen Houston serves up fresh seafood and homecooked soul food Wednesday-Sunday —
Photos: David Settle

You can always find Farooq buzzing around The Cupcake Kitchen; behind the counter, serving food, or greeting and seating guests with an infectious, friendly smile. The educator-turned-restaurateur has always had bigger goals for herself and her business than just a successful restaurant endeavor. Her mission with each expansion of the business is to provide inclusive, profitable employment options to marginalized communities and create generational wealth in her community. And she’s just getting started. Farooq will be opening a second Cupcake Kitchen location with full dining in Houston this fall!

The Cupcake Kitchen is open Wednesday – Thursday: 12:00pm – 8:00pm, Friday- Saturday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm, Sunday: 12:00pm – 7:00pm, and closed on Monday–Tuesday. For more information visit https://cupcakekitchenhouston.com.