Black cooks bring a taste of family flare to the SIU community

A+customer+orders+food+at+the+Caribbean+Hut+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+18%2C+2022%2C+out+of+the+Staples+parking+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.

Monica Sharma | @mscli_cks

A customer orders food at the Caribbean Hut on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, out of the Staples parking in Carbondale, Ill.

Southern Illinois University (SIU) students encouraged by their friends have made their own businesses by showing off their skills in the kitchen. From Chicago-style food to Caribbean, students cooking for their peers and members of the community has brought a sense of home to Carbondale.

Kevon Williams, a fourth year student majoring in Marketing, is the owner and chef of Ke’s Kitchen. Williams said he has been cooking since he arrived at SIU when his friends and the Carbondale community encouraged him to start selling plates.

“People always [told] me, ‘you should start getting more people to taste your food.’ I was inspired to go ahead and start doing it,” Williams said. “The first few days I opened up I served 70 plus people, now it’s just getting all over the community.”

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Williams said Ke’s Kitchen specializes in the experience, not just the food, which leaves customers coming back.

“It’s the whole experience from the taste, the customer service, to your food being prepared,” Williams said. “Everything is made fresh. We bring the gourmet experience to the locals.”

Williams said he started cooking at six years old. He and his father had planned to open a restaurant together in the future.

“We originally had a plan of opening up a restaurant,” he said. “[My father] was supposed to be the cook, and I was supposed to handle the business analytics and all that stuff. I started cooking and falling back in love with it.”

His passion for cooking drove him to start his own restaurant. The feedback he gets from the community and people close to him motivate him to keep going.

“My girlfriend ended up investing in me [and] buying all the equipment. Since I have everything now, I do what’s best,” he said. “The people love it and they crave it everyday, so I can’t stop.”

Williams said the best way to reach him is through his phone number or snapchat.

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“I try to cook Friday through Sunday, the food is usually ready around 4 p.m. and I cook until 4 a.m.,” he said. “I promote through snapchat… I was handing out flyers and everything.”

Williams said he does deliver and has clientele in Marion, Herrin, and Murphysboro.

Williams said he plans to bring a restaurant to Carbondale in the future featuring Chicago-style food.

“The Chicago style food I [was] used to growing up, I’m going to bring it out here,” he said. “[It’s] another connection I have with my customers, the ones from Chicago.”

Williams said he is appreciative of his customers, and is confident in his work in the kitchen. He said he offers full refunds to customers who don’t enjoy their food.

“I thank everybody for supporting [me], I really am blessed to just have this business. The support from everybody is really overwhelming,” he said.
Williams said his business has been positive from the start, and looks forward to continuing cooking for the Southern Illinois community.

Jailon Welch, a second year student majoring in Business and Marketing and SIU football player, owns a small food business in Carbondale called Food Correct. He and his business partner, sophomore Lia Khan, started the business together. She does all the analytics and outreach while Welch does the cooking.

“She does a lot of things [like] making the fliers, advertising, and going to the store, and getting everything we need,” Welch said. “She helps me prep in the kitchen, she does a lot behind the scenes.”

Welch said he started cooking when he was a preteen. He said his parents taught him when he went to his family owned Lo Lo’s, a soul-food restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They now own a popular restaurant in Chicago called The Licking.

“I’ve been cooking since about twelve, just cooking because my parents taught me,” Welch said.

Welch said he started selling plates last year in his dorm because his friend encouraged him to.

“My friend Jeff one day was sitting ,and was eating. He was like ‘bro this [is] good, you should start selling food,’” Welch said. “Once a couple of people tried my food, that’s when I started selling plates.”

Food Correct specializes in their wings, and they’re a fan favorite. Wings come with fries or chips, a dessert, and a drink of choice. Welch does deliver but there is a small fee, he said.

Welch said he prefers to be reached through his snapchat or instagram, where he also promotes new menu options. He said he has future plans for Food Correct which involves owning his own restaurant.

“I plan on opening up my own restaurant one day. Right now I’m working hard and staying diligent in my schoolwork and staying diligent on the football field,” Welch said.

Calvin Francis, a teammate of Welch’s, has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing and is currently working toward his master’s in Finance. He owns Big Cal’s Caribbean Kitchen.

Francis said he learned to cook early from his parents cooking back at home.

“I used to always cook when I was back home, I learned early growing up watching my dad and my mom,” he said. “It was just second nature.”

Francis is from the Turks and Caicos Islands and it’s why he specializes in Caribbean food. He said his teammates encouraged him to start selling plates after cooking for them.

“I’m from the Caribbean, and I came out here to play football,” he said. “There was no Caribbean food out here, nothing that reminded me of home. I made curry chicken, rice and peas with sweet plantain. All my teammates used to eat all my food and told me ‘you need to start selling plates.’”

Francis started advertising his food on social media while his peers spread his business by word of mouth. Eventually he began to receive a large clientele.

Francis said if time permits in the future he wants to own a food truck, but his dream is to go to the National Football League (NFL).

“Probably one of these [days I’ll] get a food truck, I don’t know,” he said. “I [have] bigger dreams, I want to go to the NFL, if not I want to work with investments. I don’t see it as a dream to have a big restaurant. This is just something I do.”

Francis said he only accepts pick-ups and primarily cooks on the weekends. He said the best way to reach him is through snapchat.

“I’m serving good quality food, and certainly not anything [of] bad quality. When it warms up I’m going to be getting on the grill more doing jerk chicken, maybe some ‘Rasta Pasta.’ I’ll keep y’all posted,” Francis said.

For more details about upcoming menu items and meals, these black cooks are best reached through snapchat. Ke’s Kitchen- @kevon_ doe. Food Correct- @welchjay20023. Big Cal’s Caribbean Kitchen- @calvin_57.

Staff reporter Kamaria Harmon can be reached at [email protected]om or on Twitter at @QuoteKamariaa. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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