Soul Daddy was an American fast casual restaurant founded by Jamawn Woods, featuring soul food that is both traditional and healthy. As a contestant on the reality television show America's Next Great Restaurant, which aired in 2011, he created the concept for Soul Daddy (originally conceived of as W3, or Woods' Wings & Waffles), and was named the winner in the show's first season finale on May 1, 2011. The restaurant chain opened on May 2, 2011, at three locations: at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, at Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles, and at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan at 189 Front Street. The Manhattan and Los Angeles locations closed on June 14 and 15, 2011 in order for Woods to focus on making the Mall of America location successful, only for that location to close two weeks later on June 28.
Soul Daddy began as an idea by Jamawn Woods, a resident of Detroit, Michigan who, as a result of the poor economy, began serving chicken wings and waffles out of his home in order to support his wife and three children, as recounted in the series premiere of America's Next Great Restaurant, a reality television series on which Woods competed with other contestants to pitch restaurant concepts to investors Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Steve Ells and Lorena Garcia. In the second episode, the other contestants unveiled their concept at Universal CityWalk, where Woods' restaurant was called W3's, or Woods Wings Waffles. In the third episode, a number of the contestants, including Woods, were advised to rethink their restaurant name, and devise a slogan or philosophy, along with a signature dish that represented their ideas, which would be voted on by a large group of customers. Woods unveiled his revised concept as "Soul Daddy", a soul food concept that bore the slogan "Cooking with Heart & Soul", and whose signature dish was collard greens with smoked turkey, grits accentuated with parmesan cheese and nutmeg, and loaded corn bread with sautéed onion, celery and bacon, which won him the most customer votes that week. By the fifth episode, Woods, who had downplayed the waffles from the dishes he had prepared in the previous episodes, re-introduced them to his menu on the advice of the investors.
In the first season finale, which aired on May 1, 2011, Woods beat his two fellow finalists, Joseph Galluzzi and Sundhir Kandula, who competed against him with meatball and modern Indian cuisine concepts, respectively. Bobby Flay, one of the four judges and investors, explained Woods' victory thus: "A passion for food, a solid work ethic, good business sense and delicious meals are what the investors were searching for on this series and Jamawn embodies all of those traits and more. He is truly the heart and soul of Soul Daddy. The investors are thrilled to introduce soul food to America through these restaurants and we are confident they will savor every flavor." The restaurant's three inaugural locations, at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, at Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles, and at 189 Front Street in the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, opened on May 2, the day after the finale.
The restaurant was managed by ANGR Holdings, LLC (ANGR), a limited liability company. Chipotle Mexican Grill, purchased Ells' investment in the company at his cost, provided support for company operations and invested a total of $2.3 million in cash contributions, $220,000 of which was invested by Ells' in particular. The company also registered trademarks on several of the show's other restaurant concepts names: Harvest Sol, Spice Coast, Grill'Billies, Sinners and Saints, Revolution Tacos, Chǎo, and The Sports Wrap.
Woods, as part of his commitment to Soul Daddy, purchased a home in Lakeville, Minnesota in order to be close to the Mall of America restaurant while undertaking a year-long management training and modifying the menu to include items such as Hoppin' John (blackeyed peas and rice), corn on the cob, and warm yams to replace the potato salad, which was not met with positive reaction by patrons. In an effort to ensure the Minneapolis restaurant's continued success, the Manhattan and Los Angeles locations were closed on June 14, 2011. However, shortly after the restaurant's consolidation to a single market, ANGR Holdings, LLC announced on June 29 that they were closing the Bloomington, Minnesota location as well, likely signaling the end of the Soul Daddy franchise.
The Soul Daddy official site redirected to Chipotle Grill after the restaurant's closing, but the site is no longer active.
According to a September 2011 article, Woods, while on leave from his job at Chrysler, was splitting his time constructing a Soul Daddy in his hometown of Detroit, while catering from his home and pursuing an associate's degree at Schoolcraft College, a school in Livonia, Michigan known for its culinary arts program.
Media related to Soul Daddy at Wikimedia Commons