Michelle Phipps-Evans (left) poses with her mother Victoria Lanfong Gene Phipps, who serves as the inspiration for Vickey's Trinidad & Tobago Kitchen. (Courtesy of Michelle Phipps Evans)
Michelle Phipps-Evans (left) poses with her mother Victoria Lanfong Gene Phipps, who serves as the inspiration for Vickey's Trinidad & Tobago Kitchen. (Courtesy of Michelle Phipps Evans)

In the District, Michelle Phipps-Evans is known as a writer of news and culture for local publications and working at the D.C. Department of Transportation, but her side hustle as a chef is also gaining popularity for the tastiness of her native country’s dishes and the efforts to teach others how to cook them.

Phipps-Evans, 52, is the proprietor of Vickey’s Trinidad & Tobago Kitchen. Her food company specializes in the cuisine of her native Trinidad & Tobago.

“The name of my company is in homage to my mother, Victoria Lanfong Gene Phipps,” she said. “My mother was an excellent cook and I used to watch her work. She knew how to cook good curry chicken as well as Chinese food. I am part Chinese.

“One day I was in the kitchen with my sister and my mother said, ‘Michelle knows how to clean well but she can’t cook,’ She then proceeded to teach me how to prepare meals and cook them right.”

Phipps-Evans said Trinidad & Tobago’s popular cuisine consists of jerk chicken, stew chicken and Chinese food.

“In Trinidad and Tobago, we mix up the food,” she said. “Trinidad & Tobago has a majority Black African population, but we have a lot of what we call here in the United States, South Asians. There are [also] a number of Chinese in Trinidad & Tobago, my grandfather was Chinese, as well as people from places such as Lebanon and Syria. There are Europeans who are white, and they are proud to be identified as Trinidadians.”

Phipps-Evans said Trinidad and Tobago food tends to be a mixture of all the foods from the country’s different cultures and races. She made it clear that food from her country is different from other Caribbean nations.

“Our curry chicken is different from Jamaican curry chicken,” Phipps-Evans said, noting the Jamaicans season their food in another manner.

Phipps-Evans Goes Into Business

A resident of the Hillcrest neighborhood in Ward 7, Phipps-Evans decided to try out the cooking lessons she learned in Trinidad and Tobago outside of her family in 2011. One of her daughters attended Maury Elementary School in Northeast and Phipps-Evans was active as a parent. 

To fulfill her role in the school’s fundraising campaign, Maury at The Market, Phipps-Evans cooked cuisine from Trinidad and Tobago and offered an ancillary cooking class for those who were interested.

“The food and the cooking class went well,” Phipps-Evans said, noting that a growing and loyal following among some of the parents developed.

She participated in the Maury at The Market event until 2019, when her youngest daughter finished there. At that point, she decided to take her cooking and teaching to another level.

“I decided to participate in Dreaming Out Loud in 2020 that is led by Chef Chris Bradshaw,” Phipps-Evans said. “I learned a lot there. It was there that I learned how to develop a business idea. I also met Chef Furard Tate there, too.”

Tate presently serves as the senior director of business development at the Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL). He leads the nonprofit’s By Our Hands Cohort. Phipps-Evans said Tate brought her into the 2023 cohort and she completed it. For her efforts, Phipps-Evans received a $10,000 grant from the GWUL and its sponsors.

“I am so grateful for the $10,000,” she said. “It will be used to develop my business. I may consider opening a food truck. However, I will continue to cook and teach classes and I want to get the word out about that.”

Tate supports Phipps-Evans’ aspirations in entrepreneurship and likes her approach to food.

“You can taste the love of her culture in every bite of her food,” he said. “By eating Michelle’s food, you recapture the essence of her ancestors.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *