Mr. Bake bringing substance and style to Prince George’s Co.

Kareem Queeman’s nickname is Mr. Bake and right now, his career is running way hotter than any of the ovens used to bake his desserts out of a ghost kitchen in Riverdale Park, Maryland.

Queeman is someone you might recognize from various appearances on TV shows and Food Network cooking competitions, where he’s tried to beat Bobby Flay or served as a judge.

“They love my smile,” he said with a laugh inside the ghost kitchen he bakes out of at Le Fantome Food Hall in Riverdale.

And that’s certainly some of it.

“People really tune into someone who is truly not afraid to be themselves. And being an openly gay Black male in an industry where you don’t see a lot of us there, I think that really struck a nerve with everybody, like ‘who is this guy?’ So, I think it’s a mixture of living authentic, my personality, and that I’m a bomb baker, baby,” Queeman said.

Because while you might need style to make it on TV, you also need to back it up with substance in the kitchen. And Queeman does that, too.

“Oh, yes, to be on a cooking show you do need to have skills and luckily I have that with being a trained chef,” said Queeman, who grew up in Harlem and went to culinary school in New York.

But he had to go to McLean to find a job, though it didn’t take long before he realized Prince George’s County was the place he really needed to settle in.

“I like the feel of Maryland more than I like the feel of Virginia,” Queeman said.

He also liked that Prince George’s County had “a thriving community of Black excellence. And I grew up around that in Harlem. To see Black attorneys, to see people own homes or multiple homes, or luxury cars, and I was like ‘oh, I can aspire to be that.’”

“This is a community that speaks to me because it’s good to see affluent Black people doing amazing things,” he said.

Queeman was one of the first to sign on to work out of Le Fantome when it opened last August. He did it in part he said because he wanted to find a place for him and his team to really let their food shine, just like his personality.

Mr. Bake’s shop is located in the Le Fantome Food Hall in Riverdale Park. (WTOP/John Domen)

He may work out of what’s called a ghost kitchen, but he’s only becoming more and more visible, as was evidenced by his nomination for a James Beard Award for most outstanding pastry chef or baker. Queeman is one of 20 semifinalists from around the country.

“Just still saying that out of my mouth man, feels amazing,” he said. “That also was a dream come true.”

On Friday morning, his success was celebrated by his local congressman. Glenn Ivey showed up at Le Fantome to honor the work that Queeman has done so far, and to celebrate where he’s going.

“We’re really excited to have him here,” Ivey said. “It’s a great kind of business, it’s a great story to have taken place there.”

“We’ve got a lot of great things going on here in Prince George’s County that nobody hears about,” Ivey said. “Even people here in Prince George’s sometimes don’t hear all the upbeat and positive things going on.”

An added bonus was that Ivey got to take a few cupcakes home, but admitted they were gone by the time he finished the drive from Riverdale to Cheverly.

“There’s nothing like being able to do a meeting and then have an award winning chocolate cupcake at the end of it,” Ivey said, laughing. “These are exactly the kind of folks we want to elevate.”

Queeman himself was stunned by the recognition he was able to get from Capitol Hill.

“That was just beautiful,” he said. “To me, that just tells me I have another level of support now that I never had. I’m now entering rooms that I have never entered before and that’s a beautiful thing coming from a young Black boy growing up in New York City, where all I really wanted was a neighborhood bakery.”

It’s safe to say that 2023 has gotten off to an incredible start for Queeman.

“I’ve definitely got a lot of eyes on me, loving it though because this is what I want. I wanted my message to be told,” he said. “And what the rest of the year is going to look like? Honestly, if we’re already starting January and February off like this, I already know it’s going to be up and up from here because I know it is. I feel it inside. I’m actually going to win that James Beard Award.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up