‘America’s Next Best Restaurant’ Winner Jamawn Woods Talks Healthy Soul Food Inspired By His Daddy

Jobless for six months, Woods won a spot on TV and made his entrepreneurial dreams a reality


Jamawn Woods gets to work in the Soul Daddy kitchen (Image: NBC Universal)

The Soul Daddy company put my team together. The judges are also investors, and they knew what would happen when someone without management experience won, so they made a plan and made sure I had a team around me. I had the option to just be a founder–be the face of it and not work –or be inside the restaurant and work, [which is] what I wanted to do. I have a general manager I’m training under as an assistant general manager. Then I can become the general manager of whatever restaurant I move to. That will be my role, but I’m also the Soul Daddy founder.

How did you come up with the idea of “healthy soul food”?

I learned to be conscious about healthy food on the show. Sometimes African-Americans don’t care enough about what we eat. We want to make it taste good, throw some of that bacon grease on there, all that. Once I got on the show, Lorena [one of the judges] brought up this point. She really liked the concept of soul food, but it’s heavy in calories. That really woke me up. I thought, “I’ve got to do something about this.” That made me start doing my research.

Speaking of healthy food, what do you think of First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating programs?

That’s one of my ultimate goals, to reach out to First Lady Michelle Obama. I would love to have her try out Soul Daddy to show that I see her vision. America does need to eat healthier.

Is the name Soul Daddy inspired by your father?

Definitely. All my love for cooking came from my dad. He always had a little saying: “Never depend on a woman to cook for you.” It’s no knock towards any woman. It’s just for the simple fact that if your woman gets mad at you, and you can’t cook, what are you going to eat? It always stuck in my head and I always watched my dad in the kitchen.

Being from Detroit, what do you think of the difficult economic situation there?

I love my city. I’m hoping that my story and the little success that I’m gaining can help inspire the people of Detroit to want to do better and bring our city back to the old Motown days.

What’s next for Jamawn Woods?

I’m just focused on these three restaurants. It’s hard when you’re running one restaurant. Now I have three. So I’m focused on these three, making sure they’re up and running, and that they’re a success.


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