In Harlem, a chef starts small – to go big

“Featured on the Love the Way You Live Podcast with Charlie Lewis on Episode 6 (Click here.)”

Darryl Burnette brings hospitality—and great food—to New York City’s Harlem

This is the latest installment of The Pursuit, a series in which small business owners share insights on how they build their enterprises—and follow their dreams.

Like many chefs, Darryl Burnette has long dreamed of owning a restaurant. He hadn’t anticipated that it would be quite so small as Belle Harlem, the 275-square-foot sliver that he and his wife, Melissa, opened in October 2016.

Burnette, 45, has worked in large New York City kitchens like Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Restaurant and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, which served some 600 people a night in a vast multi-story space. At Belle Harlem, Burnette has only 12 seats, with the kitchen directly in front of guests, giving a terrifically intimate view of how food is prepared.

Burnette and Melissa—who during the day works as a fashion company’s director of product development—have lived in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood for eight years. They have seen tensions arise between longtime African-American residents, and new arrivals moving into gleaming condos. Located around the corner from the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, Belle Harlem aims to be a spot where people from different parts of the community can start a meaningful conversation.

In the following interview, Burnette shares why Belle Harlem’s diminutive size is actually an asset, what he’s learned from more than a decade in the restaurant business, and how he continues to pursue his dreams.

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Website –

Facebook – @BelleHarlem

Email – [email protected]

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