*Soul food lovers in New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles – get ready for a new restaurant from the winner of NBC’s premiere season of “America’s Next Great Restaurant.”
The reality show – described as a cross between “The Apprentice” and “Top Chef” – gave its crown to Jamawn Woods for his restaurant Soul Daddy during Sunday’s season finale.
Soul Daddy beat The Brooklyn Meatball Company and Spice Coast in the final challenge which was had the finalists test their food with actual diners giving reviews on their meals.
The judges, including Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Steve Ells, and Lorena Garcia, agreed that Soul Daddy’s concept of healthy soul food was a success.
They thought the concept of fellow finalist Spice Coast (modern Indian food) was too similar to Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Brooklyn Meatball Company made them wait too long for their food, causing a backup.
“This is definitely the biggest moment of my life. I can’t wait to see the opening of my new restaurant,” Woods said upon winning.
The 34-year-old — whose fulltime job is driving a forklift at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights assembly plant — had been running a part-time catering business from his home, making chicken wings and waffles for friends, and became a contestant almost by accident after a network scout saw his food photos on Facebook.
“He’s come a long way,” said 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 finale was held several weeks ago and Woods’ restaurant opens its doors today at the Hollywood and Highland complex in Los Angeles, the Mall of America in Minneapolis and in New York’s South Street Seaport.
The show, which competed against “The Amazing Race” for many of its episodes, was watched by an average of 4.1 million viewers weekly.