Dame du Jour: Melissa McClelland

By Maria Isabella
Photo by Andrew Burkle

As a freelance photo stylist, Melissa is the first to admit she thoroughly enjoys working in an emerging industry that’s as creative as it is fun — which is the perfect fit for her.

After graduating from Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Melissa went to study sculpture and European history at Bennington College in Vermont. She then transferred to the Program in Artisanry at Boston University, from where she graduated. Eventually, she also went to the Culinary Institute of America for styling. Whew!

Today, Melissa enjoys a strong reputation, especially in the area of food styling and photography.

“I really respect the sense of community we have here in Cleveland,” says Melissa, “and the larger role that food plays in bringing people together and building relationships.”

Growing up, food was not such a big deal for her…until high school, that is. “I took a cooking class in 11th grade,” explains Melissa, “and that’s when I discovered that I really loved it!”

She worked in restaurants all throughout college. She also worked in the test kitchen of Eating Well magazine and as a chef at the now-shuttered Chapters Bookstore and Café. She currently regularly contributes to Edible Cleveland magazine.

Frankly, Melissa genuinely enjoys all things food. From her favorite local restaurants (Anatolia Café for its appetizers and white bean salad; Minh Anh for its rice noodle salad) to her own family gatherings (always featuring her mom’s famous English trifle pudding), she revels in the beauty of it all.

As for her idea of the perfect meal? “It would be a slow meal with many small plates on a nice long table, served with great wine and a lot of friends, preferably outside,” says Melissa wistfully.

Melissa first heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier from her sponsor, Maria Isabella. “I’m fairly new,” she says, “but I have already found the networking to be invaluable.”

Learn more about Melissa as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Ostrich.

What is your favorite cookbook? Thug Kitchen. It features vegan street food that always turns out well with amazing flavors.

What is your favorite food blog? Sweet Paul.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Rice pudding.

Any favorite indulgences? Homemade cornbread.

Do you have a signature dish? Paella.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Kale and cannellini over pasta.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Semolina cake.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? An M&M cake gone wrong for a co-worker who loved M&M’s. I put the candy in when the cake was still too warm and it ‘kind of’ exploded. But the co-worker was very appreciative and still loved it!

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Eggs, beer, and apple butter.