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Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Melissa spent most days after school in her mother’s garden - composting, pulling weeds and picking vegetables. Even back then, Melissa’s family didn’t eat processed foods, both for health reasons and to save money. Cooking together was a family activity that created some of her best memories. At the age of eleven, Melissa’s mom gave her a stack of cookbooks and a limited budget, announcing she would have to plan, shop, and cook family dinner once a week all by herself. An avid sports fan, Melissa’s competitive side kicked in, taking the challenge seriously. Her newfound cooking skills earned her an after-school job, prepping for a local caterer as a teenager.
After a semester at Parsons School of Design in New York, Melissa made her way to USC on a scholarship, studying theater and communications. An internship eventually led to a career working in film, running John Singleton’s production company. Opportunities to produce and direct music videos for Tupac, Ice Cube, Coolio and other artists followed. Melissa landed a position as a staff writer for one-hour dramatic television, writing homicide and procedural shows. After Tupac's death, a divorce and a canceled writing job, Melissa turned her passion for food into a profession, managing the catering arm of Soul Food Kitchen, a renowned soul food restaurant in Inglewood. Realizing her passion for food could become a career, Maxwell applied for a job as a culinary events producer at a cooking school in Los Angeles. The school was purchased by Le Cordon Bleu, where Melissa spent seven years in marketing and culinary events.
Following her time in Los Angeles, Melissa transferred to Le Cordon Bleu’s Seattle campus to continue her work while also studying culinary arts. Each day began in the classroom kitchens during the early hours of the morning. After class, she switched her chef coat for a suit to fulfill her day job duties! Despite the juggle of motherhood, school, and work, Melissa graduated with honors. She then trained at Tom Douglas Restaurants, paying her dues on the line and prepping farm-to-table vegetables.
After working for Douglas, the opportunity to work as a private chef for a professional athlete came knocking. That was the beginning of her career cheffing for exclusive clients who demanded the best. One client owned a ranch to control his own sourcing. This required a high-level of skill in cooking and butchery. Maxwell trained off-hours with journeyman butchers and started to suspect that meat was not making clients faster, fitter, or stronger. After researching the benefits of plants on the human body and the environment, she returned to school, earning a certificate in Whole Food Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University.
As part of her transition to a plant-based lifestyle and profession, Maxwell took a job as a food stylist and blogger for a traditional ingredient recipe website. That experience and countless requests for healthy ingredients inspired Melissa to create the show and brand ‘Recipe Retake’. The rest is history, creating plant-based inspiration for everyday people.
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