Karem “Mr. Bake” Queeman’s Perfect Day in DC

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At DC Dream Day, we ask our favorite local people to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Maryland Baker Karen “Mr. Bake” Queeman enjoys taking part in cooking shows like Beat Bobby Flay, Bake It Like Buddy and Sugar Rush Christmas, even when the pressure on him mounts. “Oh my god, they’re so stressful,” says Queeman. “They’re the most stressful thing in the world, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Why put yourself through the stress? As the owner of a black and queer bakery, Queeman knows the importance of representation. “I wanted to consciously put myself on a platform to be seen,” he says. “So people who identify with me who are black, brown and queer can say, ‘I want to go on this show, and I can be myself too.’ That really drove me.”

In August, Queenman opened its first Mr Bake stationary store below Le Fantome Food Hall in Riverdale, where he slings cupcakes, donuts, and banana pudding. He borrowed his “world-famous” banana pudding recipe from his aunt Janet, who was the “most experimental” cook in his family. “People can’t get enough of it,” says Queeman. “I’ve tweaked it over the years, but it still stays true to the core recipe she gave me.”

Baking brought the New York native to the area in 2010 when he was recruited to help open Fluffy thought cakes at McLean. He later helped open the first Crumbs Bake Shop in DC before starting his own business. During that time he has lived throughout the DMV: in Alexandria, northeast DC and nearby Prince George’s County, eventually settling in Temple Hills. Initially, however, Queeman didn’t like the area.

“I didn’t like the transportation system from New York City,” says Queeman, who couldn’t drive and had endured a grueling two-hour bus-train-bus trek from Alexandria to McLean. “I cursed the metro system every day.” Once he settled in – and got his driver’s license and a car – he began to build a community here, full of friends and family, like his cousin who moved in with him.

He also learns the history of Prince George’s County, where he has spent much of his time. “I learned so much more about Prince George’s and how influential it was on African American culture, it gave me a different perspective on my culture and my people,” he says. Now Queeman feels like he’s become a part of that community, especially with his new bakery. “My childhood dream was to have a bakery in the neighborhood,” he says. “I love contact with people.”

But on a dream day in DC, work is the furthest thing for Queeman: food, friends and fun are on the agenda.

what do i do first I’ll be walking or jogging lightly in DC. I love what they’ve done with the Southwest Waterfront and Wharf. I like doing outdoor things. I love going for walks. I’m from New York – I have that a lot of of walking. And walking is very therapeutic for me.

I go to 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the original location of set up farmers. When I was a manager at Crumbs they opened up and my best friend worked there and I got to eat all the food so I became a part of the Founding Farmers family. It’s brunch, and I’ll probably have chicken and waffles because it’s served with macaroni and cheese. I love the story and the story behind Founding Farmers. I like that it keeps a southern touch, which is my background – although I’m from New York, my family is from the south. I love the handcrafted cocktails. Give me the Constitution: a gin-based drink with ginger and chamomile.

I would like to do something artistic. I like to find small art galleries or even a paint and sip event. My friend owns a company called Artbae and he hosts a variety of art events throughout the DC area. He does pop-up gallery events, he curates events at a multi-artist restaurant. He teamed up the Real Milk & Honey: They have a huge space out there in Suitland and he brought local Black and Brown artisans into the building and their art is on display for guests to see and if they want they can buy the art too.

I take care of myself union market. I like nature and I love people watching. My friend used to work at serenata [inside La Cosecha] and made all my drinks – I don’t know what I got. I just love the openness of the bar and I’ve met so many amazing people, literally just sitting and talking to my boyfriend. And I love that it’s black and queer owned. So I’m definitely going to grab another cocktail or two. I also have a few friends who meet me. I’m still full from brunch, but I’ll probably grab a snack at Union Market. I love exploring the pop up concepts.

Then I have to go the dirty goose. I love the roof, especially when Farrah Flosscett is DJing. Oh my god she will make me dance the food I ate and get ready for dinner. My drink now is all Hendrick’s gin, tonic, and two limes.

So since we’re already in the U Street area and I’m with my friends, I’m doing a big dinner at a historical location: Florida Avenue Grill. This is another black owned southern restaurant and there is so much history in this building. I go there sometimes just to really connect with the people who have been in that building – and to get a really good meal. They’ll ask me what I’ll get – it doesn’t matter. You can’t go wrong. When it comes to steamed pork chops, turkey wings, candied yams, or collards, you can’t go wrong with anything you can get at Florida Avenue Grill, but note that you won’t eat it all at once.

I’m going to go for a walk because I like to let go of heavy foods that I’ve eaten and I want to end the day I started on. In New York, that was big for us: when we finished eating somewhere, we always walked a few blocks before jumping on the next train. So we’re going to end our day with a roundup of laughs and banter. And take a few steps around U Street, people watch.

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