WASHINGTON, DC — Shamara Watson likes to say that she learned how to cook from one of the top schools in the world — her grandmother’s kitchen.
“I really love her greens. She had a bunch of greens just mixed up, but she mostly did more of the soul food thing,” said Watson, co-owner of Chef’s of the Streets, a food truck/caterer specializing in bringing delicious and healthy soul food to the hungry across the Washington, D.C. area.
Watson started the business with her older brother David about five years ago. She always dreamed of owning a business and they both enjoyed cooking and feeding others.
“When I was living in Florida, I used to cook our dinner and there was a homeless guy that was down the street from us,” Shamara Watson said. “So, I used to bring him a dinner plate and everything like that, but it’s just always been my passion, well, both of our passions as far as cooking.”
For his part, David Watson didn’t have any experience owning a restaurant, but he had worked in kitchens since getting his first job at Hardee’s when he was 14.
“People kept saying, we’re doing functions and stuff like that, ‘Man, when are you going start having your own business? When’re you going to start doing it?'” he said. “So, one day I just filled out the paperwork and everything, picked my sister up and told her, ‘Look, this is the name of our business. This is what we’re going to do.'”
Even though the siblings were inspired by their grandmother’s cooking, they set out to create something different with Chef’s of the Street.
“We’re mostly trying to focus more on vegan and vegetarian, because that’s one of our missions to pretty much introduce a more healthy eating style to the community and to everyone,” Shamara Watson said. “They don’t have to be scared of vegetables. Vegetables are still going to have flavor to it.”
With their business underway, Chef’s of the Streets started doing pop-ups and selling their healthy-style soul food at festivals across D.C., Maryland and Virginia. This generated word-of-mouth about their food, which led to their business growing.
“With Black-owned restaurants suffering from pre-existing barriers and being hit hard by the pandemic, we knew we had to make an investment to help them recover and become more resilient,” said Jamelle Lacey, senior manager of the PepsiCo Foundation’s Racial Equality Journey. “We are honored to work with the National Urban League and the broader PepsiCo teams to create opportunities for Black-owned businesses to build generational wealth and continue to strengthen their communities.”
Thanks to the program’s grant funding, the Chef’s of the Streets owners were able to get their food catering truck wrapped with their logo and contact information.
“The celebrated program opened up many more doors for us, as far as exposure, as well as the funds that we did receive from that,” David Watson said.
Now that the weather has started to get warmer the Watsons expect to be doing more pop-ups and setting up at festivals throughout the DMV.
Chef’s of the Streets is currently operating a pop-up at 5759 Fisher Road in Temple Hills, Maryland. They will be serving 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m., on Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-5 p.m., on Sunday.