And the winner is ... Soul Daddy.
If you've been watching NBC's "America's Next Great Restaurant," the question has been whether soul food, Indian food or Italian meatballs will find a home at the Mall of America. Sunday night's final episode showed the prize going to Jamawn Woods, 32, of Detroit, who successfully promoted a restaurant about soul food with a twist -- a healthier approach (think baked chicken rather than fried, at least in the TV competition).
His prize is part ownership of a three-restaurant chain, one of which opens at the Mall of America Monday. The restaurant, which opens at 11 a.m., is on the third floor of the MOA, at #344 South, tucked between Tony Roma's and Noodles. The two other restaurants, which open simultaneously, are at South Street Seaport in New York City and at Hollywood in Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif.
Woods has been a favorite of the judges for many of the episodes, with a story that clearly touched their hearts: Before he landed in the competition, Woods was unemployed and selling waffles and wings from his apartment. "He's come a long way," said Bobby Flay in the final episode, who, as one of the judges, is also an investor in the restaurants. In an earlier interview he said, "Jamawn is doing it for all the right reasons: for a better life for his family."
The show, which competed against "The Amazing Race" for many of its episodes, was watched by an average of 4.1 million viewers weekly.
- For more on "America's Next Great Restaurant," see www.startribune.com/nextgreat and look for a report in the Taste section on Thursday