#FeelGoodFriday - The Def Chef: If you ever wanted to cheer for the underdog here is your chance.
A lifelong passion is now becoming a reality for the Def Chef at Soulful Dishes.
If you are from the Central District, then you most likely know the story of the Def Chef (Jimaine Miller), a 1992 graduate from Garfield High School who grew up on 27th and Alder in the Central District. If you do not know him personally I am fairly certain that you know someone from our community or yours just like him.
You know the type of guy who the only thing bigger than his dreams is his heart. The ones who always put community first, the all around good guy who is there for everyone else, the kind of guy, who when you call they come, but also the guy who despite their very best efforts, seems to always be the underdog and time and again falling just short of that dream that they have been chasing that continues to elude them despite the hard work and effort. The guy who often times does not have the resources to match his vision or when the resources come the opportunity disappears. That same guy who despite the disappointments of life continues to pick himself up, shake it off, stand tall, and try even harder, placing responsibility for his success or failure all on the guy in the mirror and no one else. The kind of guy that when he comes up in conversation you find yourself saying “I really like that guy, I hope this works out for him”. Yep, I am fairly certain that we all know someone like the Def Chef.
For years the Def Chef has been looking for a brick and mortar opportunity to bring his passion for cooking to a restaurant setting. Over the years there has been a few close calls but never anything certain and lasting but it never stopped the Def Chef’s passion for feeding his people, you could literally find the Def Chef cooking anywhere in the Central District that had a heat source from catering out of his home, to cameos on countless food trucks, to working in the kitchen at the Po’ Boy Pop Up. The Def Chef has stayed active.
One of the biggest and most impactful things that the Def Chef has been up to lately was launching his school lunch program in which he makes healthy and nutritious lunches as an alternative for children in Seattle Public Schools who are seeking an alternative to the mystery meat that is often served in lunch rooms across the Emerald City.
Def Chef starts his day well before the sun comes up, personally making lunches by hand with all healthy local sourced ingredients and with an abundance of love and then driving around our fair city delivering the lunches before sunrise. Those parents that can pay for the Def Chef’s lunch program do, and the many who cannot don’t, the Def Chef delivers regardless. According to the Def Chef, one of the most important things we can do is to make sure our children eat healthy in school. The school lunch program, in which the Def Chef has patterned after elements of the Black Panther school lunch program a generation before is a passion for the Def Chef.
This is just one of many community initiatives that you will find the Def Chef involved in. It’s not uncommon to spot the Def Chef supporting a food drive, clothing drive, literacy initiatives, and because he is recognized and respected on the streets by our youth, he is also a part of several mentorship programs teaching personal responsibility and entrepreneurship. (Oh, by now you might have guessed it, with a name like the Def Chef, he also used to rap back in the day, but that’s for a different article.)
That’s just the type of guy that the Def Chef is and why over the years, despite the setbacks and false starts that the Def Chef has faced in trying to make his own culinary dreams a reality, he has built a growing number of supporters not only in the Central District but across the city and beyond. People like you an me who don’t judge our neighbors by what’s in their wallets, but rather by what’s in their heart.
The underdog, I mean the Def Chef's fortunes started to change about six weeks ago when he took over Soulful Dishes on 18th and Yesler. With the previous operators not being in a position to run the restaurant on a daily basis, the Def Chef struck an equity deal with the owners to operate the restaurant.
The previous menu was down south soul, the first thing that the Def Chef did was remix the menu reducing the total number of items and shifting the offering from soul food which by its nature takes a considerable amount of time to cook and is fairly pricy, to more a fast casual affordable menu with burgers and seafood.
Def Chef stays close to his Central District roots with several famous burgers that harken back to the golden area of Central District restaurants including the Sammy Burger paying homage to Sammy’s which was located in the Central District and a neighborhood favorite during the Def Chef’s youth.
As a Garfield grad, the Def Chef said it just wouldn't be right not to have a Bulldog Burger on the menu. Not a beef eater? no worries, Def Chef has a veggie burger and a chicken burger as well.
Seafood your thing? Def Chef has something for you as well, including the Big Fish Sandwich with either Catfish or Cod, the Fish and Chips, the Salmon Caesar salad or sandwich, and the fried or grilled shrimp.
Like Fabolous said, what’s the entree without something on the side? Well, Soulful Dishes has all the side action you could ever want including:
Mac & Cheese
Red Beans & Rice
Black Eyed Peas
So just to set proper expectations, the Def Chef is at that point in his business that most entrepreneurs reading this article can relate to. His business is doing good enough to operate but not well enough yet to hire staff, so the Def Chef is literally at times a one man army, he takes the orders, busses the tables, and of course cooks the food. So when you go to support this underdog as I am sure you will, please bring with you a pinch of patience and a dash of understanding as at times it can take a few minutes. Keep in mind that you are literally seeing a man giving his very best effort to make a lifelong dream a reality, he knows the numbers are not good for any restaurant to survive, but for years, he has always said that all he needed was an opportunity, a chance, a crack in the door, the Def Chef now has that chance, he is putting in the work, literally, it is up to us, the community, to support him and all the other Black businesses that continue to open in the Central District. (Africatown told you Black folk weren't going nowhere, but that’s for another article).
The Def Chef is dropping hit after hit in the kitchen Monday - Friday from 12:30pm - 9pm. Soulful Dishes is located at 1800 East Yesler on the intersection of 18th and Yesler. It looks like the underdog's luck has finally changed for the good and the Def Chef can put a long awaited W on the board. Let’s hear it one time for the underdogs everywhere!
1800 East Yesler
206 485 7123