Fueled by the positive effects of a plant-based diet, the executive chef and founder of The Kitchen by Cooking With Que is on a mission to teach people how to ‘eat to live’
BY REBECCA GADE SAWICKI
A culinary career rooted in the power of plants wasn’t always a part of Quiana “Que” Broden’s plans. Over a decade ago, the former mortgage account executive found herself so sick that she couldn’t get out of bed — a litany of health issues all came to a head, forcing her into the hospital with an unexpected diagnosis: stage 4 sarcoidosis in addition to a dairy allergy.
At the time, the 29-year-old mother of three faced a life of steroid use, two-three times a day, to stay alive, but she couldn’t accept that was her only path to better health. “You know what happens when you get sick, everybody Googles it,” Broden says. All of her Googling pointed her to a surprising answer: a plant-based diet.
Although Broden was not familiar with vegan food, she figured, “What’s the worst that could happen? I could actually feel better.”
After just 30 days, the deep, persistent cough she battled because of her illness began to dissipate. After 60 days, all of her rashes began disappearing. Broden was in shock; after years of fighting so many health problems, it was unbelievable that a diet change could have such an impact. “In my mind, I was like, what are they putting in the food!” Broden says. “I didn’t know what I was eating was making me sick.”
Broden’s physical changes caught the attention of her family and friends, who were surprised she was healthy and looked well. They immediately wanted to know what she was doing and how they could do it, too. This turn of events launched her initial foray into the culinary space with the Cooking With Que blog and YouTube channel dedicated to sharing healthy recipes and how-to videos.
“God doesn’t give you all this information not to share it; I wanted to help people get it [information] how they needed it, whether you want to see a recipe or want to cook with me,” Broden says.
Shortly after the blog launch, corporations with healthy eating initiatives began inviting Broden to come and teach their employees how to improve their dietary habits. For years, Broden hustled between teaching people how to “eat to live” and working in the mortgage industry until May 2019, when she shifted her entire focus to opening her restaurant in Detroit, called The Kitchen by Cooking With Que.
The born and raised Detroiter and self-taught chef knew that the city of Detroit was where she would set up shop. “There was no place like this [The Kitchen] when I was growing up,” Broden says. She says she has met many Detroiters who are afflicted with diet-related health issues — diabetes, hypertension, heart disease — and it all comes back to what they eat. “There are so many ailments that are so common here, but it’s because on every corner there’s a fried chicken place or liquor store,” Broden says. While people can find fast-food places on every corner, her goal is to make it just that easy for people to access healthy foods.
The Kitchen by Cooking With Que is a restaurant by day and a teaching and event space by night. From veggie-filled power bowls to crowd-pleasing macaroni and cheese, the restaurant menu features a wide variety of vegan dishes. The unique space offers diners the opportunity to learn, taste, and experience different foods, encouraging them to try something new in an environment that “feels like home.”
The feeling of home reminds Broden of her close-knit family who has played a vital role in developing her passion for cooking and helping others. It’s her goal to ensure that all of her diners feel like family as soon as they walk in the door. “Family helps family — we’re not here to just focus on ourselves,” she says.
While The Kitchen promotes a plant-based diet, it isn’t 100% vegan — Broden felt compelled that the quest to eat healthier wasn’t an all-or-nothing venture. “It bothered me that you had to pick a side; I’m not the person who is going to pick a side for anybody; I just want everyone to eat healthier,” Broden says. “Stop putting people in boxes; how about we just show everybody how to eat better because we could all use that?”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic during the last two years, Broden’s pursuit of helping people “eat to live” intensifies every day. Broden initially anticipated only having one location but now has plans to open a second Detroit site this summer — and it’s unlikely that she will stop with just two.
In fact, Broden aspires to establish The Kitchen in every state and also worldwide. “People have to learn how to eat better everywhere, not just here,” she says. When her healthy eating empire grows, fans can rest assured that quality will not suffer. “People know us for good quality products; when they see our name or the ‘Q’ on it, they know it’s going to be good for them.”
Cooking With Que Blog & Meal Delivery
Check out Que’s Youtube channel for great recipes you can try at home.
Read about all of the women in business featured in the 2022 Women’s Issue here.