What’s the key element of real estate?
Location, location, location.
That’s something the bigwigs at “America’s Next Great Restaurant”
forgot. If you’re going to set up a soul food restaurant somewhere, pick your location carefully. New York? No. Hollywood? Never. Bloomington, Minn.? Huh?
Location is what Jamawn Woods
has in mind. The winner of the NBC reality TV show "won" and "lost" a chain of three restaurants over the course of eight weeks. Though that was momentary bad news for Jamawn, it has turned into something better: a Soul Daddy restaurant in his hometown of Detroit.
After all three restaurants closed, Jamawn went the legal-remedy route and received an out-of-court settlement with ANGR Holdings
that will keep his restaurant dream alive: He keeps the Soul Daddy name, equipment from the New York branch of the restaurant (see right) and his recipes. “I went from a 10 percent owner [with the three restaurants] to be a 100-percent owner,” he said with pride, in a phone interview. “It’s a great move for me.”
And, well, it’s not 100 percent ownership, he said as an afterthought. “I’ve got a partner, Mike Farrow of the Farrow Group
. He’s doing most of the work. I had the name, food and fame, and he’s got the construction.”
That would be construction on the new restaurant, which is located in downtown Detroit on Mount Elliott, right behind Martin Luther King High School (Jamawn didn’t know the street address; see photo below of the restaurant building).
His business partner, Mike Farrow, owns a demolition company, which tore down the original building at that location. The Detroit Soul Daddy will be built from the ground up. “We’ve got the outside done, with new brick, windows and roof. I’m sitting down with an architect to talk about the rest,” said Jamawn. He expects the restaurant interior will look different from the TV show’s prototype, but the setup inside will be similar, with sit-down and counter service, to seat at least 80 in
side. He plans to have an outside deck on the roof and a patio out front. “It’s going to be real nice, a couple TVs on the floor, sort of like a Hard Rock Café kind of thing.”
Jamawn has no regrets about being on the NBC reality TV show. “It gave me a great chance and opportunity to be seen by the world and to promote my food. I want to be a restaurant owner. I’m passionate about what I do. I definitely am thankful for the chance I had to be on TV.”
Still, it was tough watching his dream fall apart so quickly. “Once everything crumbled, I was devastated. ‘Oh, no! It’s over. I have nothing. I’ll have to go back to Detroit and Chrysler,” he said. “Not that that’s a bad thing. But it was truly a lesson.”
Today he’s a busy fellow. He still cooks from his home, catering his favorite foods and letting diners know about the specials via Facebook. He’s also the coach of a kids’ football team. “I’m cooking them wings and waffles for our homecoming,” he said.
Then there’s culinary school. He started a two-year program at Schoolcraft College
in Labonia, Mich., where he’s working on his associate’s degree. “I actually have homework tonight,” he said with a laugh. Though he had a one-year leave from Chrysler, he expects to be back to his old job as a forklift driver by the end of October.
“I was disappointed my restaurants had to close, but at the end of the day, it was best for me. I don’t have to go through so many people to approve my ideas,” he said. “And the restaurant is in my hometown. I’m happy and excited to have a restaurant in Detroit.”
The Detroit Soul Daddy, which opens in the spring, will have much the same menu as the early “healthy” restaurants had, with one major exception: There will be fried chicken. “We’re going to keep some of the healthy foods,” he said, “but since I’m in my hometown, I know people aren’t all worried about healthy foods. We will have two kinds of food on the menu, traditional plus the healthy sides.”
Jamawn still chats occasionally with his pals from ANGR, including fellow finalists Sudhir “Suds” Kandula
(Spice Coast, formerly Tiffin Box) and Joey Galluzzi
(Brooklyn Meatball Co., formerly Saucy Balls), and contestant Eric Powell
of Meltworks, all of whom have restaurant plans in the works.
As for the new Soul Daddy? “It will be the same, but all me,” said Jamawn.
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