'America's Next Great Restaurant' Finale: Winner Revealed, Watch Out Chipotle!

Maressa Brown

jamawn woods soul daddyAmerica's Next Great Restaurant may be over, but the excitement has only just begun for America's new healthy soul food fast-casual restaurant Soul Daddy and its owner, Jamawn Woods, the winner of the competition. The restaurant, under the slogan "New Home Cooking," will feature healthy spins on soul food classics, like baked chicken, ribs, biscuits, and cheese grits. As of today, three Soul Daddy locations will open nationwide -- one on Front Street at South Street Seaport in NYC, another at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, and a third at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. Talk about "prime" real-estate!

The fact of the matter is that 32-year-old Jamawn's story was probably the most endearing of all of the contestants' ... Hailing from Detroit, he's a self-taught chef without any formal training, and he created a catering company out of his home. 

On last night's finale, it was touching to see his family celebrate with him at the "soft open" of the restaurant. And when he walked into the L.A. location of the restaurant, it was clear that he himself was UBER-grateful for the opportunity the show had afforded him. But to be honest, I was really disappointed in his win.

I would have been more disappointed if Joey had won with his stale meatball concept, the Brooklyn Meatball Co. (Sorry, the last thing the U.S. needs is more heavy Italian carbo-loaded food. And that guy annoyed the hell out of me!) But I'm still not positive what the investors were thinking when they chose Jamawn over Sudhir's modern Indian Spice Coast. That concept is what America actually needs. Flavorful, healthy Indian presented in an accessible way. Taste-testers on the show agreed that Spice Coast was the only restaurant of the remaining three where they could actually see themselves eating multiple times a week. I was convinced it was the new frontier of fast-casual food in this country. Jamawn seems like a great guy who deserves this opportunity, but come on -- baked chicken and grits??? Don't we already have a fast-casual restaurant chain with the same exact food called Boston Market? Is that really something this country needs or wants to eat frequently? Bleh.

Hey, maybe whenever I head down to South Street Seaport to give Woods' cooking a real live taste, I'll (literally) eat my words. But until then, and I'm sure for a while afterward, I will mourn Sudhir's loss and forever resent Bobby Flay. I want to eat chickpea curry tacos and green chili sauce with naan!! Who knows ... with hope, Spice Coast will open locations nationwide, too, someday SOON!

How do you feel about Soul Daddy's win? Will you eat there?


Image via NBC

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