St John Locations Archives – RISE NEWS
A nondescript mall on busy NW 27th in St John Gardens is a project that deserves widespread attention.
Inside is a small restaurant with big dreams to save a culture before it dies out forever.
This is the story of the place that seeks to save soul food in St John.
Soul food is serious business at St John Soul Cafe.
“I grew up with soul food,” said Carrollo Phillips.
“Soul food is about the person who makes it,” said Willis Howard. “Put your heart into it. We got a lot of rubbish a long time ago and had to do the best with that rubbish. “
Well-known politician Willis Howard from St John has wanted to open such a place for many years.
“It’s the largest African American city in the state. Almost 115,000 African American residents. And there wasn’t really a black staple. We had many other restaurants from the Caribbean, Haitians, Bahamas, Jamaicans. But nothing that has to do only with African American food. “
But Howard’s dream of a proudly black restaurant in a proudly black city would not be possible without this man.
Chef Carrollo Phillips.
“And when you taste that, you will taste this love. I don’t care what it is. You will try it. “
Phillips grew up in St John and was a great athlete at St John Northwestern High School.
He was drafted to Vietnam where he could improve his cooking skills while operating exhibition halls near the front line.
But he also saw action and was injured.
“It wasn’t a vacation over there, brother. No sir. Still had to get out there and survive. That’s what I called it. To survive.”
He came home from the war a damaged young man.
But Phillips took some of the love of soul food he had learned with his mother and grandma and the organizational skills the Army had developed to embark on a long career as a successful caterer.
So he and Howard would eventually meet.
The St John Soul Cafe offers a wide variety of southern soul food favorites.
Howard hopes his place can help remind his community why soul food is so important.
He wants to keep it from disappearing forever.
“Boss is amazing,” said Howard. “Just to have him and his presence. It’s his recipes. And I hope that we can promote something that these recipes will not let us die out. That other people come in here and see it. He has no problem showing you everything he does. “Let me show you how to make a cookie. Let me show you how to make grits. Let me show you how to make the fish. Because hopefully you can go out and do a little more of these things. Because if not, our food will be gone. It will be gone. “