While many eateries in the Greater Houston area struggled to adjust during the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, Jacque Guinn, owner of MiMi J’s Kitchen in Spring, was trying out new recipes, supporting her local community and offering a product to help bring families back to the dinner table.
“The shutdown actually helped us in a sense, because when my associates had to completely close their businesses and go back to the table to figure out all the stuff they needed to do to be to-go only, we were already to-go only,” Guinn said. “Our thing was, 'Now we need to get the word out that we exist.'"
MiMi J’s Kitchen, located at Spring Cypress Road, offers customers a weekly menu of rotating pre-cooked meals for online order and in-store pickup. Meals available range from pan-seared chicken and pasta to beef ribs with herb mashed potatoes in addition to a variety of dessert items like cobblers and cakes.
While the business is not a sit-down restaurant, Guinn said the unique business model enabled MiMi J's Kitchen to easily adapt to the statewide shutdowns.
“While the pandemic is a business killer, it kind of helped breathe a little bit more life into ours because we were the place you could go in and you didn't have to wait,” she said.
After retiring from a career in the oil and gas industry, Guinn said she decided to pursue her passion for cooking by starting her own business. According to Guinn, meals provided by MiMi J’s Kitchen are meant to feel like dinnertime at grandma’s house.
“I want [the food] to feel as if you were cooking at home,” Guinn said. “Even if you didn't know how to cook, it looks like it's something that you would cook, or something that your mom cooked or your aunt or grandmother. It brought you back to a happy place.”
While most meal services are based on specific diet plans, Guinn said her kitchen does not identify as a diet-focused business. Instead, Guinn said she prefers to substitute unnatural products that can often leave a funny aftertaste for natural ingredients like pumpkin-derived sweeteners or turmeric spice for added color.
When developing recipes, Guinn said she keeps an open mind, prioritizes quality and takes her time to do things right.
“I let the food speak to me, and I let it tell me what it wants me to do,” she said. “If I don't like it, you don't get it, and I have to be honest enough with myself to say, ‘This isn't gonna fly.’”
Guinn said the kitchen saw many new faces during the shutdown and was even able to begin hosting a shrimp boil every other Friday. However, Guinn said sales have started to slow since restaurants have begun to reopen.
Since the pandemic, Guinn said the business has reduced the number of days spent in the kitchen to accommodate for her father and husband, who is diagnosed with cancer, who often help with the workload.
“I cook the sauce for two [to] three hours, so it mellows out the garlic and it just renders such a beautiful flavor with lemon and all these herbs,” Guinn said. “It's a lot of work to do this shrimp boil inside of a small kitchen, so we'll do it every other week ... until either the sales drop completely off or the season basically is over.”
Guinn said MiMi J’s Kitchen also prioritizes serving the community, especially during the pandemic. In addition to offering hand sanitizer and locally-made face masks, the grab-n-go boutique has also partnered with relief program Second Servings of Houston to offer meals to those in need, purchasable through online donation.
“That's MiMi, that's what a Mimi does, she takes care of all your needs,” she said. “As business owners, ... we can take away from our personal time as valuable as that is to reach out to the communities that we're in, the same people we’re asking to keep us in business. We have to give back.”
MiMi J’s Kitchen
9337 Spring Cypress Road, Ste. G, Spring
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon.