Melba Wilson was “born, bred and buttered in Harlem.” Today she proudly represents her New York neighborhood as one of the most successful AfricanAmerican women in the restaurant and catering businesses. Her achievements are countless and her reputation in the food service industry is stellar. Her style, poise and love of entertaining have made Melba’s Restaurant a New York landmark frequented by music, TV and movie stars, New York City’s elite, locals and travelers from around the world.
Melba’s drive to succeed started at an early age with a sharp eye and impeccable insight. Her first opportunity to learn about the restaurant business was at Harlem’s famous Sylvia’s Restaurant, where she held a variety of service and managerial positions. It was Melba who conceptualized and launched the popular Sunday Gospel Brunch, which was so successful that the restaurant industry’s elite quickly came calling. Michael Lomanco, former Executive Chef of 21 Club and Executive Chef of Windows on the World Restaurants contacted Melba in 1999 to produce and manage a weekly Sunday brunch. In less than six months the Champagne Gospel Brunch generated a sixty-five percent increase in revenue. This experience combined with her ability to organize, produce and execute promotional events led to partnerships with renowned restaurateurs, Drew Nieporent and Robert DeNiro of the Nobu empire, Corton, Centrico and TriBeca Grill – as well as the late Artie Cutler and Godfrey Polistina of Carmine’s, Virgil’s, Cesca, and Quest Restaurants. In 2004, Melba decided to strike out on her own.
Today she is the proud, sole owner of two Harlem based businesses: Melba’s Restaurant and Melba’s Catering. Melba’s Restaurant has won rave reviews from New York Magazine, Time Out, The New Yorker, The Daily News, Zagat and Interview Magazine. The restaurant was also named Best Brunch for Kids by Time Out New York, Best Soul Food by Zagat and New York.com and has featured recipes in the “Go Green East Harlem” Cookbook as well as the “Bobby Flay’s Throwdown” cookbook. Melba’s Catering has an extensive list of clientele including Target, Nike, American Express, Pfizer, Time Warner, Bank of America, The NFL, NBA, Transport Workers Union, Universal Records, The Archdiocese of New York and several recording artists including DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, the Zac Brown Band and Katy Perry. Melba appears on national news and cooking shows.
She has been featured on CBS “60 Minutes”, “Good Morning America” and “The Morning Show”; The View, NBC’s “The Today Show”, Good Day New York, NBC’s “New York Live”, the Sundance Film Channel in a documentary entitled, "Love, Lust and Comfort Food,” the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” (and won), Food Network’s “Savoring Harlem” (which Melba narrated), “The Next Food Network Star”, “3 Days to Open with Bobby Flay”, "Beat Bobby Flay", "Restaurant Divided" with Rocco DiSpirito, The Insider, and she was the lead judge on “My Momma Throws Down” on TV One. For the 2020 South Beach Food & Wine Festival Annual Black Tie Gala, Melba served as co-host with Andrew Zimmern in the 2020.
The proud mother of a 19 year-old son, Melba has a cookbook that was released in April, 2016 with Simon & Schuster and was honored twice by Ebony Magazine with their Taste of Ebony Award. Melba is the recipient of the Westside Spirit Award, The Entrepreneur Award presented by Congressman Charles Rangel, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce Award, The Thurgood Marshall Prestige Award, The "Shero Award 2015" and the Heritage Award, to name a few. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Opportunity Charter School and Harlem Park to Park. Melba supports many causes including Alzheimer’s, The Girl Scouts of America, NY Women’s Foundation, The Doe Fund, diabetes, literacy, senior citizens causes.
In 2019, Melba was elected President of the Board of Directors for The NYC Hospitality Alliance. In considering her leadership and advocacy for small business, Melba has been appointed to the New York City Mayor’s COVID-19 Small Business Advisory Council. She has consistently taken time to help community based organizations in Harlem and throughout New York City. In 2020 Melba’s celebrates 16 years in business, and has served over 2.5 million guests.
Melba is an outstanding graduate of the Ophelia DeVore programs.
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