She is a self-proclaimed “work in progress” but as I listened again through our interview I said to myself, “she doesn’t even know how far she’s come.” Monique Woodland is a proud native of Washington, DC hoping to one day leave a mark on the nation’s capital in the form of a quaint coffee shop. She is a woman who left behind the comfortability of a well-paying job to chase her dreams. She is a woman whose greatest desire is to show her one-year old nephew that there is another way of life than what he sees around him. She is a woman who left behind the allures of the world and its ways to pursue a life rooted in Christ. This month I wrote in my online diary about answering the call of God. I wrote about the life experiences that draw us near to the Lord when nothing else can bring us peace. When deciding on what women’s interview I wanted to share this month, God said share Monique’s story. I realized during the transcription of her interview why He said that, Monique is a woman who answered the call of God. As she stated during our interview, “I had no one to talk to about it, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others. The only person you can talk to in those situations is God. That’s how I knew I was going into the direction that I needed to go because I knew it was the only thing that was going to pull me out of this darkness and get rid of this cloud.” Monique is a woman after God’s own heart; following His path for her life and refusing to compromise the standards He has called her to follow. She is a woman who followed God’s plan for her life and it led her into a head on collision with her purpose, destiny and the passion that brings her great joy. She is a woman who simply put, got it! Her life is a reflection of one who simply gets it, that in this life we are nothing without God. In this life, if we simply surrender to God and do all that He requires of us, the blessings will overflow. He will heal us. He will reveal who He designed us to be. We shall land smack dab in the center of His will for our lives and our purpose. Chef Monique is a woman of God and for that reason and many others, she is my April 2016 W.C.W.

 

D. Almaroof: First I want to get into Monique the person, then I want to dive into Monique the business woman.

Oprah once said that one of the hardest questions she had to answer was “Who is Oprah?” Who is Monique today?

Chef Monique: That is a hard question. Who is Monique? Monique is a daughter, a friend, a child of God, a fighter, broken but strong. Monique is diligent. Monique is a survivor. Monique is a hard worker. But yet broken. Monique has a story. A story that is still being written.

 

 D. Almaroof: That actually leads us right into our next question. We all have a story, a story that most people wouldn’t believe from just looking at us. What’s your story?

Chef Monique: I’ve always been that person who tries to please everyone and I found myself losing myself, trying to accommodate and please everyone. I completely lost myself trying to fit in and do what everyone else was doing. It wasn’t until I lost who I was and started having conversations with God that I began to find myself. Who am I? What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? I finally had an epiphany. God said, “Look this is what I want you to do but are you going to follow these steps? I’ll show you the way if you’re willing to listen.” During this time is when I decided to go back to school and I put myself through culinary school. I knew I could not afford it but I talked to and prayed to God about it. I even got to a place where I kept testing God, “If You do this, I’ll do this.” I knew I couldn’t afford school but, “If You provide a way then I will go.” With no question, He provided, I had the money to go; not a fraction of the money but all ten thousand and six hundred dollars. Now mind you I already had school debt because I went college.  I worked in the hospitality industry, I’ve done medicine; all these careers paths and experiences left me unfulfilled. I was so unhappy. I just never felt like I found my niche. Cooking was something I did on the side, it was where I found peace and I could be myself. Once I enrolled in school I encountered another obstacle, I knew even if I went to school I would have to continue to work. So I went to school and continued to work full time. Yet again, I kept testing God, “If I get into this school, if I get accepted, I’ll put everything forward, bust my tail and give my best.” So of course I did, I graduated with honors. I was exposed to several top chefs and celebrity chefs in the city; and this was based on my first externship. I came out of school working for Wolfgang Puck, not one but two of his locations, I worked for his catering company and his restaurant.

From this I began to realize that obviously God is the way to go. So I came to a place where I had to pull back and have difficult conversations with my friends, explaining to them that I was headed in a new direction and I could not continue to cater to everyone else life. It was now time for me to cater to myself and do what makes me happy. Some of my friendships aren’t the same and that’s okay because everyone is not meant to go with you where God is taking you. Now it’s just a matter of staying the course, staying focused and doing what Monique needs to do for Monique.

D. Almaroof: I find it interesting when I talk to other individuals who came into an intimate relationship with God later in life. That was my experience and everything that you stated you experienced post your encounter with God, is similar to my experience. Especially when you decided to make that shift, the people around you respond to that in interesting ways.

Chef Monique: They don’t understand it and you find yourself trying to make them understand it because you want to bring people with you, but people aren’t always as willing to go. So it may take a little bit more for others but when you know God has already talked to you and He’s like, “Look! This is what you need to do and I’m telling you and I am also showing you. You may lose others but I am bringing you what you need.” I remember I prayed and prayed and prayed for women in Christ, who were walking in Christ, and I found Queen Esther Ministry. It was like, okay! No more testing, I am convinced, I surrender and this is the direction that I am going in.

D. Almaroof: Yes! And I think it’s one of the, no thee best decision you can make in your life.

Chef Monique: All my friends are like, oh Monique you’re so different and you’re so this. I’m like, it doesn’t have to only be me! I just want them to see what I see and know that things can be totally different. Pastor was just saying in church today, “the same blessings and favor that God has for me, He can have for you too but you have to be willing to surrender and follow the steps just like I did.”

 

D. Almaroof: Okay so my story; how this interview series, my business, everything I am doing now was birthed out of heartbreak. That’s my testimony, that’s my Christ moment, drenched in the blood moment. In the past when people would view me, say on Instagram – when people see you on social media, they get a glimpse of the life you live and they think you have it all together. They don’t think you have pain or have life experiences that you have overcame. I’ve authored two books and my first book was my “pain book”. I believe that God used that book to show others that everyone has pain and in your pain and uncertainties know that you are normal. I believe that if we all stop living behind these facades, like everything is so perfect and we don’t have anything going on, more women could heal and come into a place of wholeness. I say all this to lead into my next question.

What was your greatest pain in life and how did you overcome it? What was the greatest lesson you learned from this?

Chef Monique: That question is actually current, something that I am dealing with now. Without really touching on it, I can still touch on it. I came to a place where I had gone through some things in life and that’s where my walk with Christ came from. I found that I couldn’t talk to my friends or my parents about it. So I fell deeper into depression and the only person I had left to talk to was God. At that point it was either I was going to keep dealing with depression and these thoughts, and these thoughts that turned into suicidal thoughts. It was either these suicidal thoughts or this bible. Which way do you want it to go? Luckily for me I chose the bible. I am still overcoming a lot of my pain but – and I still have days when I get low and I cry but that’s when I turn more and more into prayer. I talk to my Queen Esther sisters and they hold me accountable. My advice for anyone dealing with anything is to stay in the bible, stay in your word, stay in communication with God; that is what has helped me. The greatest lesson that I’ve taken away from this is – not that God punishes you but He uses situations to bring you closer to Him. Other things may not have worked but so sometimes the extreme is what’s needed. T.D. Jakes said at revival, “He spits and He touches.” In certain situations where I wasn’t being obedient, when I wasn’t listening and when I wasn’t following God; I thought I was okay, I thought life was good. I had a great job, money, a house, a car but I had no communication and no relationship with God. When this situation happened, it stripped me of everything that I knew as normal. I started falling deeper into depression and at the same time I’m still going to school and working full time. I was losing relationships and losing friendships, and for me it was as if my whole world crashed. I had no one to talk to about it, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others because I didn’t want to worry about people judging me or the whispers. The only person you can talk to in those situations is God. You go in prayer and you stay in your Word. That’s how I knew that I was going into the direction that I needed because I knew it was the only thing that was going to pull me out of this darkness and get rid of this cloud. So again the lesson that I learned from that is lean not on your own understanding. You have to surrender absolutely everything to God. Everything that happens, whether good or bad I wholeheartedly believe God has signed off on it. God knows about it and I don’t care how bad it was, He signed off on it. There was a reason and whether you choose to learn from it or not, there is a reason behind it.

D. Almaroof: My way of explaining it or my tag line for it – some people answer the call and some people don’t. So He called you, He used that situation to call you and you heard. My same situation, I heard and some people don’t. And honestly it’s not that they don’t, I believe some people make the choice to ignore the call. Sometimes people waste their devastating experiences and never gain that lesson or blessing like you said.

Chef Monique: Oh you preaching right now!

[shares a big laugh] This is God’s way of saying I am bringing you to me and I am the only one who can fix this. Instead people look for man to save the situation.

 

 

“Everything that happens, whether good or bad I wholeheartedly believe God has signed off on it. God knows about it and I don’t care how bad it was, He signed off on it. There was a reason and whether you choose to learn from it or not, there is a reason behind it.”

 

 

D. Almaroof: Best life advice you’ve ever received?

Chef Monique: Best life advice I’ve ever received. That’s a good one. One of my Queen Esther sisters told me something, it might not actually pertain to life but it’s more about being a female. You know how single women sometimes get down because we don’t have the family and the children. Not yet at least! We had a discussion and she basically said don’t stop living your life…waiting. Just because you want these things and you feel like God hasn’t blessed you with these things, continue to live your life and be grateful and thankful for what you do have. You have to continue to be happy because you never know, the women that have the children and the husband may be going through hell. All you see is this outer image, she’s perfect and they look so happy. Be happy and be blessed with what you have, regardless of how big or how small. Still pray for the things you want but be happy with what you have.

D. Almaroof: That’s good. Contentment.

 Okay so I have this thing with Instagram. With women, I just wish we could remember our worth, remember that we are Queens, like get it together! If we demand guys to stand up, they’ll stand up and be stand up men. Even though I am celibate, if we close our legs and say I am demanding this and if you’re not offering what I desire I’m not interested. What’s one of your life codes, like your females codes, that you see women breaking and want to shut it down today?!

Chef Monique: I am also celibate, for two years now, so one I would definitely have to say is wait until marriage (to have sex). I know it’s hard but I believe if a man wants you, if he loves you and really wants to be with you, he can wait until marriage and he can court you. Demand what you want and that will tell you right then how serious he is. Stop giving into this, our relationship is based on text messages. I’m sorry, no! I am not coming to see you, you’re not coming to my house. I know exactly what I want. Now I don’t know what God has in store for me. Therefore I am willing to align with what I with what He has for me. Whether it looks different or is shaped different, I am okay with that and I can accept it. However I am not willing to shift on certain things. Like that whole text message communication thing, no. I want to court, I don’t want to date. I’m not doing it.

Girl code, if your man is not into the church and not willing to come to church –not just come to church but have a relationship with God, not going to happen! So I preach that a lot to my friends, some listen, some don’t. It’s just my job to be the messenger.

D. Almaroof : Just plant the seed.

Chef Monique: Exactly, I can’t force you to feel how I feel but a man needs to be a believer of Christ. I want him to be more into the word than I am! [laughs] Lead and teach me! I don’t want to pull and drag you to church. I don’t want to have to drag you to church because you want to stay home and watch football. How are you leading me and the children and you’re at home on the couch with the remote control watching super bowl. No! So yes, girl code, just respect yourself. Your man has to respect you. Your man should be completely into the Word. Your man should have a solid relationship with God. And you can wait until marriage to have sex, I don’t care if this man is drop dead gorgeous, don’t let him pressure you. I don’t care what you did in the past, that’s all in the past. This day moving forward, now that you have knowledge of what’s going on, protect yourself. Your body is a temple, treat it that way.

 

D. Almaroof : What is the greatest misconception about you and what would you like to say to that?

Chef Monique: [quickly blurts out] That Monique is perfect and has it all together!

D. Almaroof: What would you like to say to that?

Chef: Monique: Monique is not! Monique is by far, nowhere near perfect nor does she have it all together. Monique is the biggest cry baby. Monique cries at the drop of a dime. Monique’s feelings are hurt very easily. Monique is very hard on herself. I can post that I was just contacted by CBS or the Today’s Show or I am volunteering here and I have to do this. But at the end of the day, I am the biggest and hardest critique on myself. I feel like I am never doing enough. I feel like I can always do more, whether it’s in the community, a charitable cause, if its work, doesn’t matter. Like I said earlier, I am still broken. I am so hard on myself daily. I always feel like I should have done more or I should have done this. I am looking at somebody else career and I am like, why aren’t I doing this! Monique is not one hundred percent put together. She is still a work in progress, a puzzle still being put together, still coming together. Everybody is always like, “but you’re so nice and you’re so sweet.” I am these things but I don’t have it all together. Under construction!

 

D. Almaroof: Who is your WCW and why?

Chef Monique: At this moment. if I had to pick someone it would be my facilitator Sharrese Taylor. She is awesome! This is a woman of God, who does not take any crap. When she walks into a room, she owns it! You have to respect her presence. Not only that but she can dress down but she can also dress up. She’s so smart; she’s loving and caring but she does not play when it comes to the Word of God. She’s on it and she’s hold us accountable. It’s no slipping with Sharrese. She teaches you that it’s God’s way and this is what it is. Everybody in our QE (Queen Esther) class wants her to be our mentor or spiritual mother because she’s on it. She would be my WCW right now because she’s beautiful, strong, she’s a wife. Before she married her husband, she said she got so into her Word because all she wanted to do was be a good mother to her child and follow God. She was celibate for six years and that’s when her husband, who is also her daughter’s father; God moved on his heart, he completely changed and proposed to her. But she stayed the course! We look at her and she’s such an excellent example. No flashy celebrity, it’s this woman right her. She’s strong, she has it together and she’s a woman of God. Her and Pastor Jenkins wife. Love her! First Lady is like a ray of sunshine. She walks in a room and it’s like ahhhh [laughs]. How can you not love her? Love her inside and out and all those children! She’s always so pleasant, soft spoken and very approachable. It wouldn’t be any flashy woman for me, no celebs.

 

D. Almaroof: As a professional, I know you’re a chef. What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received and then the worst?

Chef Monique: The best advice I’ve received is stay humble. In that business it’s so easy to get caught up and now it’s a fade or trend to be a chef. I think to myself, do people understand you make no money. You’re on your feet – when you’re on a line at a restaurant you’re working anywhere from fourteen to sixteen hours a day. You’re eating standing over top of a trash can. All this and they may offer you ten dollars an hour. You’re going to work at it until you work your way up and that’s hopefully if you work your way up. Now you go on these social media sites and you see these people; they’re hashtagging that they’re chefs and they have no idea what it takes, the endurance or the commitment that it takes. I do this because this is my God-given talent. I love it! Leaving my government job and going into this was a transition for me because I already had established bills and debt. For me to just say, I trust God and I know He’s going to provide for me. I also know this salary is nowhere near half of what I made, it was just like I know this is what God is telling me to do so I am going to follow Him. The best advice anyone could have ever told me was to stay humble. Never think you know too much and that you can’t keep learning. You learn something new every day. You can learn from a janitor, don’t ever think you’re too above anyone to learn something.

The worse advice I would probably say is someone telling me, “oh you should go on one of those cooking shows, you should be a celebrity chef.” I didn’t get into this to be a competitive cook. Like I said, this is my God-given talent. If I had to work in a shelter, cooking for battered women or homeless men, that’s what my God-given talent is. If that’s why God gave me this, that’s how I have to use it. It’s not about the glory and fame for me. You have to follow what’s best for you, you can’t follow the lane somebody else is taking. If those things come along and opportunities present themselves, you take that to God and you pray about it because all opportunities are not good opportunities and all those doors are not supposed to be open for you.

 

D. Almaroof: Proudest accomplishment to date?

Chef Monique: Proudest accomplishment to date. Being baptized, saved and a part of a ministry in the church! People think this is easy but it’s hard to get up out that pew, while everybody is clapping and praising the Lord and walk down the aisle by yourself. That is the hardest thing I have done. Then from that day forward continuing to walk with God, to think about things that you use to do in the past that was routine for you and say that’s not really my thing anymore. I am proud of that! I am proud of where I am now, in the church. The job stuff is fine but to be able to say I got baptized. That was on my vision board for a year and to know I stay focused and joined the church. Some of your associates say, “oh you all churchy now”, but I’m okay with that! I laugh it off and I’m like yup, that’s who I am now! It’s okay because this is who I am and it’s obviously who I am supposed to be. You either accept it or you don’t.

D. Almaroof: And you’re now the best version of yourself.

Chef Monique: Exactly!

 

D. Almaroof: Who or what is your biggest motivation in life?

Chef Monique: I would say for me –now my motivation to do all that I do comes from my one year old nephew. His dad is currently locked up, so it’s like I have to be the best aunt possible. Just to make sure he stays his course and so he knows the difference between the direction his dad chose and the direction God has for him. I want a café, so my goal now is to continue to learn the business aspect of the restaurant industry. So hopefully in the next two to three years, I can have my small, quaint and cozy café. I want it in the district and I want it to be like that neighborhood gem that everyone loves. People come to DC and it’s a staple, you can’t come to DC without visiting this place. The motivation behind it all would be my nephew. When I see him he just lights up, he’s like my child. He is everything I would want in a son. He’s full of life, he’s vibrant. He’s super super smart. I already have the drive in me, especially since I started this walk but he is definitely that drive in me. He’s that to me.

 

D. Almaroof: I am smiling because my youngest niece is the same for me. So what keeps you up at night?

Chef Monique: What doesn’t keep me up at night! Being greedy. Snacks [laughs]. But seriously, not being successful. The fear of just not being successful. The fear of having wasted talent or wasted opportunity. The difference between being that go-getter that seizes the moment or being scared to take that risk. That and I am also an over thinker. I’m an overanalyzer, so before I go to bed I am probably thinking about a million things. How I could have done something different. Instead of just saying, it’s over and let it go. I am the one who sleeps but my brain is still going one hundred miles per hour. So just living to my full potential.

 

D. Almaroof: What do you want your legacy to be?

Chef Monique: That Monique was the sweetest, motherly, just a woman of compassion. I want to dig dipper into philanthropy. I want to have something that my kids and grand-kids can carry on. I had a charity called ‘Ambitious Angels’, a year ago but when I decided to go back to school, I had to take a step back from it for a little while. I just had absolutely no time for it. It was for inner city females, ages twelve to seventeen, it was like a mentoring program. Then we did a lot of stuff with like shelters, we were able to take like fifteen girls to Mystique games and we did My Black is Beautiful event. It was really nice. Just to have something like that. I want to leave footprints that my daughters and granddaughters can carry on. Be a good woman of character and compassion.

 

D. Almaroof: What do you have coming up and where can people reach you to support you?

Instagram/Twitter: @Moniluv22

Facebook: Monique Woodland

My Cook Pray Love website was birthed when I first started culinary school. I was completely frustrated with the whole money situation, being tired from working all day and being in school all night. I was looking for an outlet to channel that energy and I decided to journal. Then journaling turned into taking pictures of my work. As I transitioned from being a home cook to a chef, I started to do videos. I put it all together and decided to do a blog. So it has my whole story, from me talking to and listening to God before I was even a member of Glenarden. Just me listening and following God. Every time I would think of a new recipe, I would post the recipe on the site. If you want to try something it teaches you how to do it. Its super dope. So it’s ‘cook pray love’ and those are the words that mean the most to me. It was birthed out of love and staying in prayer because at that time, that’s all I had. So people can reach me there and I have an email address on the website.

Website: www.cookpraylove.com

 

Also coming up, lately I’ve been volunteering a lot with Central Union Missions and it’s on Massachusetts Avenue. I just did their men’s shelter Martin Luther King event but for Valentine’s Day I am doing the battered women’s shelter event on Good Hope Road. They are turning the kitchen into a five-start restaurant and we are going to pamper the women and cook for them. I’ll have somethings coming up on my own but right now I am focusing on volunteer work.

 

 

D. Almaroof: So I like to end each interview with Deborah’s Seven. They are just quick one answer questions.

 

Nickname?

Nikki

Top beauty regiment?

Sleep

Beyonce or Rihanna

Beyonce

Coke or Pepsi

Coke

Introvert and extrovert?

Both

Who’s locked in your music player right now? Your current music obsession?

William Murphy

Your favorite book?

The Bible

What makes you laugh?

My Nephew

 

 

 

Another hearty interview with another great woman living out her purpose and utilizing her God given gifts. Bringing light and joy to the world, one full belly at a time!

 

Until next time, I wish you…

 

Love & Happiness

2017-10-11T19:20:08+00:00