Photo by: capturedbywoodd
Encouraged by his grandma, Kareem Queeman, affectionately known as Mr. Bake, started baking at age 8. Kareem Queeman is the Founder and Owner of Mr. Bake Sweets LLC.
Kareem went from making sweets for family, friends, and neighbors to working in bakeries. “I typically go to very nostalgic things. I like to bring out nostalgic moments when people eat lemon pound cake, banana pudding, or a slice of red velvet cake or pie, it reminds them of their grandmother, aunts, or uncles and brings back those childhood memories,” he said.
Mr. Bake has always pushed the boundaries in flavor and artistic design. He has appeared on many cooking competitions shows as a contestant or judge, including “Girl Scouts Baking Championship”, “Beat Bobby Flay”, “Sugar Rush Christmas”, “Bake It ‘Til You Make It”, “Buddy vs. Duff”, season 3, and “Bake It Like Buddy”, which he won.
Below he reflects on his love for creating sweet sensations, his latest product offerings, and the Netflix series “Luke Cage”.
PrideIndex (PI) Tell us about yourself and the journey that brought you to where you are today.
MB: I am a New York City native. I live in the Washington, DC, area in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I’m a professional Pastry Chef and Baker with over 20 years of experience. I own and operate a bake shop in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I have been featured on several food competition shows and served as a judge in a docuseries. I’m a James Beard nominated chef for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. I’m the first black openly queer male ever to receive that recognition for such a prestigious food award. And I’m an all-around fun guy.
PI: Have you considered branching out into other areas beyond baked goods?
MB: Well, I do baked goods other than pastries. I don’t do plated desserts at all. I went to culinary school, so I have some knowledge of that. My strong suit is general baking. I do a lot of American Southern classic desserts. That’s my background. Many of my family’s recipes were introduced to me as a kid, so I typically go to very nostalgic things. I like to bring out nostalgic moments when people eat lemon pound cake, banana pudding, or a slice of red velvet cake or pie. It reminds them of their grandmothers, aunts, or uncles and brings back those childhood memories. The reason I got into the industry is because I love sweets. I enjoy sweet memories that invoke good emotions and feelings.
PI: I was surprised that one could attend culinary school just for baking. I thought that when you went to culinary school they taught you everything.
MB: Yes, that is absolutely correct. I learned culinary techniques, cutting skills, and the basics of getting around the kitchen. I also know how to cook. I don’t cook for people or sell food for consumer consumption. I cook for fun. When you go to school for culinary art, that’s the umbrella of the degree you’ll get. You have courses in culinary school for baking and pastry then after those basics, you start branching off into specialties. So, because I was always into baking, I learned about chocolate work, wedding cake design, sugar work, sculpturing, and things like that. In school, you will also get into management classes, learn about food costs, how to purchase food, and everything your college or institution offers.
PI: Speaking of desserts, I was looking at your website and saw these Pride Cakes in a jar. How did you come up with that idea?
MB: A local supermarket has these cakes in a few cups. I thought they were cute, but they would be better in jars. The idea was birthed during the COVID pandemic. I did a lot of research in 2020 while everyone was at home. I sourced the jars that had been FDA-approved for food. I worked on the look and feel of the packaging and the build-out of the brand. The flavor components came from my being in the business for so long, and knowing what people would go for.
PI: This is unrelated, but the first time I saw your picture, I thought you were Mike Coulter, who plays Luke Cage in the Netflix series. Mike should play you in the movie version of your life.
MB: (Laughs) I might have to play him. He’s a little older than me. We might play one another. We might be doppelgangers. (Laughs)
PI: Do you have any offerings for the vegan community?
MB: Yes. I make vegan donuts and baked doughnuts for our vegan customers. I use ground almonds, ground oat flour, potato starch, regular granulated sugar, and baking powder, a little salt, and non-dairy milk. For the liquid parts, I use liquid vegetable oil, seltzer water, vanilla, lemon, or whatever the flavor of the doughnut we’re making. It’s very simple. When we make those products, our customers enjoy them. I enjoy them too.
PI: What are you working on right now?
MB: We have been at our location, in a food hall in Prince George’s County for 10 months. I’m training and building up the staff so that I can step back to work on marketing. I work with two Black, openly gay men I love because I get to pass down all the knowledge on the good, bad, ugly, and indifferent that I endured during my journey.
I recently attended the James Beard Foundation Award Ceremony. It was a fantastic event for networking with other chefs. I look forward to doing more during this Pride Month, so I’ll be doing a lot of outreach. I’m going to a school next week to do a baking demo, and I’m also going to another school to read to elementary students. I am going to be part of the Washington DC Pride Festivities. Later this fall, I’m working with the LGBTQ Mayor’s Office of Public Affairs to bring the first-ever queer food event to the area.
Outside of that, there’s the possibility of doing more television. More to come about this at a later date.
PI: What other areas are you looking to expand into?
MB: My number one goal is to become a sought-after chef. I want to travel to do catering, food demos, or a food and wine fair. I want to travel to other places and sites like New York City or Atlanta, Georgia. I want to create spaces in the food media arena for openly Black and Brown, queer chefs that don’t occupy those spaces, especially in the men’s arena. I’m also looking forward to hosting or judging televised food competition shows and growing my brand in retail spaces. I’m also open to increasing my brand’s presence in brick-and-mortar stores.
PI: What is your ultimate goal? Where would you like to see Mr. Bake in 10 years and beyond?
MB: I want to live a happy and fulfilled life leaving a lasting legacy for my family and I want a beautiful home. The ultimate goal for my business is to be in several retail locations with large distributions like Target, Whole Foods, etc. And I would like to host my own television show and judge competitive cooking shows. I am open to traveling all over the country for speaking engagements. I would also like to try acting at some point.
To learn more visit www.mrbakesweets.com.