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Restaurant: The Nappy Chef
Outdoor Space: Sheffield Park
Distance between them: 1.7 miles
Mixing two of your favorite foods in the same dish could be a disaster, but for Rojshawn Dontae, his Jerk Mac couldn’t have turned out better.
“I love jerk chicken and mac & cheese, so I mixed them together and people went crazy off that,” said Dontae, the owner of The Nappy Chef in East Charlotte. Dontae is a rapper turned celebrity chef after being John Makin’s apprentice – a chef who cooked for Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson.
Dontae started out cooking fine dining meals like lobster, but realized people weren’t interested in paying for expensive meals – even celebrities. “Floyd Mayweather wanted fried chicken, macaroni and collard greens,” Dontae recalled. This is when he switched to creating classic dishes he loves – wings, chicken & waffles, tacos, burgers and fries.
Dontae puts his own twist on these favorites by mixing asian, Caribbean even french flavors together while cooking. Like the Jerk Mac which mixes french style macaroni with Caribbean jerk chicken. It’s so popular that the restaurant can only sell it on Sunday’s in order to keep up with the demand.
Another top seller, and Dontae’s favorite, is the Boss Plate which gives you a choice of a sandwich or taco, plus six wings with either fries or a side salad. Dontae created this menu option after his customers couldn’t decide what to order – this lets them try it all.
About the chef
Dontae didn’t attend culinary school, or even graduate from high school – yet was able to open a food truck then his restaurant within three years. He credits his success to being a hustler and “I started looking in the mirror at myself and decided to do things my way,” Dontae said.
Cooking was always a second passion for him – after rapping – which he said he grew tired of after 12 years. It was easy for Dontae to make the switch to focusing on his chef career, but opening a restaurant was more difficult as he tried to find the right help. “The restaurant is more so business focused and people don’t love your business the way you love it,” Dontae said.
The name Nappy Chef comes from “the rich white kids at school would call us nappy heads, so I wanted to take something people said negatively to me and make it a positive,” he said. His hopes for the restaurant is to franchise it across the country. Dontae also has plans to open a bar and lounge in Uptown this year which will serve food, drinks and hookah.
Address: 5933 Albermarle Rd
Hours: Tues – Sat 12pm to 8pm; Sunday 1pm to 8pm
Phone: (980) 219-7478
The Nappy Chef has limited indoor seating but just five minutes away is Sheffield Park. An 8-acre green space with close to 1.5 miles worth of trails, basketball and tennis courts and a picnic shelter perfect for eating your Boss Plate on a nice day.