A spotlight spiraling through the night sky, visible from miles away added an air of excitement on Friday. At the source of the light show stood a line of exquisitely dressed people walking the red carpet to the entrance of Carolina Kitchen’s grand opening in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Under a tented entryway elaborately decorated in black and gold with hints of red, more than 350 business owners, socialites, Prince George’s County representatives, and members of the community gathered to celebrate the grand opening and sample the new menu, which for the first time included a large selection of plant-based options.
Arriving fashionably late, Lance London, CEO of Carolina Kitchen, greeted the crowd of hundreds like old friends. As he made his grand entrance to the main stage, he stopped frequently to high-five, hug, greet, and take photos with attendees.
Charismatic and attentive to the needs of his guests, London has built a strong reputation as a restaurateur
“Lance is a shining example of Black entrepreneurship. He thinks with a view to the future– from the way he runs his restaurants to the way he trains his staff. Bringing his skill set to create jobs and provide training in Prince George’s County uplifts the entire neighborhood and gives people incentive to want to do what he is doing,” said his longtime friend Russ Parr.
The dazzling buffet of popular Carolina Kitchen favorites like macaroni and cheese, chicken, ribs, and all the fixings was accompanied by a new plant-based menu. Both menus were equally enjoyed by the crowd, with many trying plant-based meat and sides for the first time.
Author, Darnell Parr, praised the addition of a plant-based menu.
“Our diet as African Americans is still hugely slave-based. If we prepare vegetables there usually is a lot of butter or a ham hock in it,” Parr said.
Having practiced a plant-based diet for three years Parr continued: “The United States is the only country in the world that pushes a heavily meat based diet.” To her disbelief, Parr said that she received heavy pushback and shaming after she stopped eating meat, as opposed to support.
Cristen and Mike Jones of The First Harvest Club, indicated that “nutritious, affordable, and high-quality food, in many cases, is out of reach for many working-class, minority, and low-income communities.” Due to the lack of access to healthier alternatives for many people of color, the Joneses find Parr’s experience all too common.
“Lance’s new restaurant is important as it also supports the local farm community. The aim is always farm to table, meaning that fresh ingredients are sourced within 30 minutes of where they will be served,” said Mike Jones.
For London, keeping a finger on the pulse of food trends is not just good for the community, it’s good business. Currently planning 11 total Carolina Kitchen locations for the Washington, D.C. region, each new location will have its own niche such as, the upcoming, Carolina Kitchen Sea and Soul, which combines classic fare with a delicious signature seafood menu.
Looking around the opulently decorated restaurant decked in gold, London smiled with pride. “I love beautiful interiors. I built a restaurant that you’d see in Las Vegas, Nevada or New York City right here in Capitol Heights. I’m just excited.”
The restaurateur also highlighted the importance of the Capitol Heights location to introduce plant-based options.
“Tonight is special because we realized the importance of good health,” he said. “We have to take care of our body and our community. Of course we have those good old favorites, but bringing plant-based options to a restaurant not too far from where I grew up in Suitland, is a proud milestone for me.”
Entertainment journalist Jamie Foster Brown, 77, summed up London’s contributions to the community.
“He is very intentional. In this region, exceptional Black men are needed. Poverty, fatherlessness, hopelessness, these things feed on each other. Men like Lance interrupt these stereotypes and demonstrate that through hard work, treating people with respect, and moving with intention, any goal can be reached,” she said.
London said he has big plans for the future of Carolina Kitchen.
“Carolina Kitchen will be a national chain,” he emphasized. “ I want to be the very first African American to take a concept and duplicate it on a national level, while keeping the food and service excellent. Any dream is merely a wish unless you write it down and start acting on it.”
Source: Washington Informer