As Haiti takes the spotlight, this D-FW food truck is serving up a taste of history

Kavin Adisson
Kavin Adisson
Kavin Adisson owns Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine food truck, which served food during the Celina Night Market in Celina on Nov 18, 2022.(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

By Amanda Albee

Haiti is more than an epicenter of recurring natural disasters and its current political upheaval. Lesser-known, Haiti is home to the largest, most successful slave revolt in history, which led to its founding as the world’s first Black republic in 1804.

It’s also a “super beautiful” island “with beaches forever,” as Kavin Adisson of the pandemic-born North Texas food trailer Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine describes it.

The splendorous beaches of Haiti are portrayed in this month’s blockbuster film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, where the late T’challa’s son reveals his name is Toussaint, after the general who ousted French, British and Spanish invasions. Haitian food doesn’t make any appearances in the film, but its cuisine was lauded last week when Kann, an upscale eatery in Portland by celebrity chef Gregory Gourdet, landed the top spot on Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America list.

For these reasons — a triumphant, often buried history along with recent veneration — people are seeking out Sophia’s for fritay, Haitian fried street foods, and pâtés, which are similar to the empanadas of neighboring country the Dominican Republic.

Sophia’s also offers some fusion food, like hot dogs topped with tangy pikliz, a slaw that, as Esquiredescribes it, injects “a shot of flavor steroids” into Haitian dishes. Adisson’s Haitian hot dog won Best Hot Dog at the World on Wheels food truck rally and barbecue competition in September 2022. He also took home trophies for Best Seafood and Most Original Dish, which were his handmade pâtés he says are “fork-pressed, the old way.”

Sophia’s customers “dive into it,” Adisson says, adding that their enthusiasm “makes it really easy for me to explain the history behind [the food].”

chicken pats
The Chicken Patés from the Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine food truck during the Celina Night Market (Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

Like its political history, the foods of Haiti are fascinating but often unknown. As languages are melded in Haitian Creole, the cuisine combines flavors, techniques and ingredients from France, West Africa, Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean. Notably, Haiti gave the world barbecue. Smoking kill at night was first observed on the island by Spanish colonizers who translated the native word to “barbacoa.” Another unsung fact: When Haitian refugees fled to New Orleans after the revolution, they brought red beans and rice, along with other Creole recipes, with them.

Adisson says Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine, named after his wife, is the only place offering a dedicated Haitian menu that he’s aware of in Dallas-Fort Worth.

After growing up in Haiti and living in New Jersey, he describes his address in Celina, where he currently lives, as a “leap of faith,” like the food truck. Desiring a warmer environment to raise their teenager, the Adissons moved to Texas in 2017. But when another baby was born in 2020, the “plotting” that occurred during the pandemic pushed him to create something. In May that year, Adisson started setting up at events, his first at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Lewisville.

He took yet another leap of faith in January 2022 when he quit his post office job to focus fully on Sophia’s. Recently relaxed food truck laws that allow for trailers have helped. “Now, I got this bad boy running like crazy all over D-FW,” Adisson says.

While chef Gregory Gourdet admits he was reluctant to serve Haitian food at his first restaurant, Kann, he ultimately decided to do so after seeing the effect of his cooking on Haitians. But for Adisson, he says he chose to focus on Haitian food because “it’s tastier than most of the popular foods.”

“During COVID, I had time to think and analyze the lack of Haitian food in the USA, so I gave it a shot,” he adds.

Kavin Adisson
Kavin Adisson prepares some food in the Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine food truck during the Celina Night Market.(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

Along with attending every event he can find, Adisson also offers catering, for which he reserves special dishes like diri ak djon djon — what he calls “black rice.” The dish incorporates dried mushrooms from Haiti, which he conserves and has shipped a couple of times a year. The mushrooms can sell for up to $64 a pound, making it the most expensive Haitian cooking ingredient.

In addition, Adisson promises that wherever Sophia’s sets up on New Year’s Day 2023, he’ll serve soup joumou, a Haitian pumpkin soup he prepares with oxtails, beef chunks, potatoes and macaroni. Sometimes called “independence soup,” the dish originated from a soup made with pumpkins that French colonizers forbade their slaves from touching. It’s now a celebratory symbol of Haiti’s strength, mettle and independent spirit.

Adisson is a reflection of this spirit. He actually won Best Food Truck Spirit at the Food Truck Championship of Texas this year. He hopes that with some success, his spirited food will lead to multiple Sophia’s food trucks in big cities throughout the state, maybe even the nation.

To find Sophia’s next event, follow the business on Instagram at instagram.com/sophiashaitiancuisine or Facebook.

dish
The Griot with Plantains and Pikliz from the Sophia’s Haitian Cuisine food truck (Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

Chef Liz Rogers Shares Ice Cream Brand based on her Southern Roots

Ice Cream
Ice Cream
Chef Liz Rogers shares her Southern family heritage through her ice cream baked from scratch

Chicago Defender
www.chicagodefender.com
By Danielle Sanders, Managing Editor

Chef Liz Rogers shares her Southern family heritage through her ice cream baked from scratch in its entirety and intertwined in a super-premium ice cream base. Chef Liz Rogers is the Founder, President, and Executive Chef of Creamalicious Ice Creams. As one of the only African American-owned national ice cream brands in mass production, Chef Liz crafts her blissfully Southern artisan desserts by celebrating her roots and community. The award-winning flavors are inspired by Chef Liz, and her family recipes passed down from four generations in the South.

Creamalicious is a 2-in-1 dessert that pairs freshly baked pastries with homemade ice cream. Flavors include:

Creamalicious
  • AUNT POONIES CARAMEL POUNDCAKE
  • SLAP YO’ MOMMA BANANA PUDDING
  • RIGHT AS RAIN RED VELVET CHEESECAKE
  • THICK AS THIEVES PECAN PIE
  • PORCH LIGHT PEACH COBBLER
  • GRANMA GIGI’S SWEET POTATO PIE
  • UNCLE CHARLES BROWN SUGA BOURBON CAKE

Under the watchful eye of her mother and grandmother, Chef Liz honed her passion for cooking while growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. Her never-ending love and enthusiasm led to opening hot-spot restaurants. She has been highlighted in the media for her highly sought-after food and inspiring work with the community. With Creamalicious Ice Creams now launched nationwide, Chef Liz is looking forward to sharing her Southern roots and fusion of flavor.

Chicago Defender: What inspired such a line of decadent treats?

Chef Liz Rogers: Yeah, I’m an executive chef and restauranteur by trade. Ice cream is the world’s number one dessert. Everybody loves ice cream or some rendition of ice cream. I wanted to get the ice cream to taste exactly like a dessert, like a piece of sweet potato pie. We have four generations of family-owned recipes. It’s about family. It’s about love. It’s about going back to the days when you were younger and going to your grandmother’s house after church and having a slice of peach cobbler after dinner.

Chicago Defender: What’s behind the ice cream flavor names?

Chef Liz Rogers: Each flavor has a story and history behind it. For instance, Aunt Poonies Carmel Poundcake is named after my godmother. She made all of her pound cakes and cornbread in a cast-iron skillet. This skillet is 150 years old and has been in my family for generations. So this isn’t just a dessert; it’s an experience. It brings you into the brand and captures consumers.

Creamalicious 1

Chicago Defender: It is significant to have an ice cream brand created by a black woman on shelves in stores. What were the challenges you faced, and how did you push through those to be sold across the county in national chains?

Chef Liz Rogers: There are no African American ice cream manufacturers on the shelves. So the biggest challenge was getting retailers to believe that we had a great product and could keep up with the demand. It was challenging looking for investors and support too. You have to convince a person to believe in the vision, and you have to get them to understand what you’re trying to do. It was about finding and developing strategic partnerships but also not waiting for opportunities. You have to be willing to create opportunities for yourself. You can’t be afraid of rejection.

So many minority businesses are extremely undercapitalized, so you have to put a lot of sweat equity into your brand and have a plan to make it work, and you must have a solid team.

Chicago Defender: Now, is there one flavor of your ice cream that is the most popular right now?

Chef Liz Rogers: Yes, the slap your mama banana pudding is a top seller. Besides the catchy name, this dessert is made with pure banana puree and actual banana pudding. Most banana ice creams are just a vanilla base with artificial banana flavoring. Since ours has real banana pudding with homemade shortbread cookies intertwined in the ice cream base, it tastes like the banana pudding you are used to having. I really think that’s what makes it such a huge seller.

Chicago Defender: What do you love most about what you do?

Chef Liz Rogers: It’s really about the dream. At my core, I am an entrepreneur. I’m an artist and a creative. I wanted to bring that culinary artistry into this pint because other than that, it’s just ice cream. We want to inspire others to go for their dreams no matter how hard or how “out there” they may seem. If you have a passion, go for it and never be afraid to fail. Chase your dream until you catch it.

It’s a dream come true for me to be one of the first African Americans and the only African American ice cream manufacturer in mass production globally. I want to open those doors for other entrepreneurs that have ice cream brands and other sweet shops that have dreams of being on the shelf as well.

The Creamalicious Brand can be found in stores at Walmart, Target, Meijer, and more. In addition, the brand ships online nationwide at their website, https://www.socreamalicious.com/.

Lunch with JBJ Management

JBJ Management

Photos Credit: Charles “City” Gbadebo (IG @sosocity)

GRAND PRAIRIE EPIC CENTRAL HOTELS, CONVENTION CENTER AND RESTAURANTS BREAK GROUND

Grand Prairie

Grand Prairie, Tx. –  At 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, the city of Grand Prairie and its hotel, conference center and restaurant partners will break ground on EpicCentral, 2960 Epic Place, Grand Prairie.  The 172-acre park site is located in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex off George W. Bush Tollway (Highway 161) and Arkansas Lane.

The city is building two connecting hotels with a shared conference center, six restaurant spaces, parking garage and creating a water/light show on the lakes as well as interactive technology experiences on the land.  EpicCentral will emphasize Grand Prairie’s family, friendly, fun culture and offer exciting new dining and entertainment experiences.

Details about the projects:

Hotels, conference center.  Grand Prairie will build two connecting hotels with a conference center in EpicCentral, with the two hotels being Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites to open in 2023.  Concord Hospitality is providing construction development and procurement services.  The Hilton Garden Inn will offer 129 luxury rooms, executive lounge, restaurant, pool, fitness room and business services.  The Homewood Suites will offer 147 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens.    

The conference center will offer a 10,000-square-foot ballroom with seating for up to 1,000.  The ballrooms can be divided into five conference rooms in addition to an executive conference room with seating for 10 across the hall.  The complex is designed by Merriman Anderson Architects, and built by Arch-Con Corporation.  Interiors will reflect the flora and fauna of the north Texas prairie in tones of blue, green and whites, with accents of orange and red. 

Restaurant Spaces. The city is building six restaurant spaces designed by Merriman Anderson Architects and built by Hill & Wilkinson Construction Management in EpicCentral to open late 2022 and has negotiated terms with Milkshake Concepts to bring Vidorra Cocina de Mexico; an American modern concept; Serious Pizza, Sliders and Shakes; and a new breakfast/brunch concept called Poach’d.  Larry Lavine, the founder of Chili’s, will open Loop 9 BBQ in a fifth space.  The city is entertaining options for the sixth restaurant space. This is all going just north of Chicken N Pickle, offering farm fresh foods and indoor/outdoor pickleball courts, and opening December 2021.

The American modern restaurant will be an approachable neighborhood restaurant and bar, suitable for all of life’s gatherings; a business lunch, a happy hour cocktail, an intimate meal or a relaxed place to eat and unwind with friends.  Its artisanal menu offers a variety of unique delicacies for all palates. 

Vidorra Cocina de Mexico celebrates Mexican food, drink and culture.  The restaurant offers bold and exciting Mexican flavors, a unique cocktail program, lively social experience and rooftop patio. 

Serious Eats will feature the infamous Serious Pizza and introduce Serious Sliders and Serious Shakes.

The restaurant space will feature expansive seating, a full bar, and a live music stage that faces both the interior and the lawn. Finally, Milkshake Concepts – one of Dallas’ most dynamic and fastest growing hospitality groups – will launch their new breakfast/brunch concept called Poach’d.

In a fifth restaurant site, Dallas entrepreneur Larry Lavine, who founded Chili’s in Dallas in 1975, and his partners, will open Loop 9 BBQ.  Lavine helped launch Ten50 BBQ in Richardson in 2014.  Loop 9 fare will tempt guests with great barbecue, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, burnt ends, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and farm fresh poultry. From scratch sides include hand cut fries, mouth-watering mac n’ cheese, crisp coleslaw, hand battered onion rings and Grandma’s creamy potato salad. Hand crafted golden crust fresh fruit pies and cobblers provide a sweet ending to every barbecue celebration.

The city is entertaining options for the sixth restaurant space.

Open Space.  Surrounding the hotels and restaurants is a large outdoor open space with covered stage for events, concerts and programs.   

Water/Light Show and Land Experiences.  The city of Grand Prairie is working with Outside the Lines (OTL), 900lbs of Creative and End Design to design and fabricate creative and innovative placemaking attractions at EpicCentral, with construction to start 2022, opening late 2022.  OTL, a design-build specialty construction company, creates one-of-a-kind water features, rock work and themed environments.  900lbs is an interactive design agency that creates a diverse range of interactive initiatives and visual content to showcase the art of the possible using an arsenal of cutting-edge technologies.  End Design is a leader in fabricating high quality custom goods and jaw dropping public art installations.. The experiences will repeat daily and be refreshed 3-4 times per year.  Design concepts may integrate technology, water, lighting, image projection and other inventive ideas. 

EpicCentral also home to.  Reflecting innovation and community investment, EpicCentral is also home to Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark; The Summit recreation center for adults ages 50+; The Epic Arts, Fitness and Entertainment Center; PlayGrand Adventures, an all-inclusive playground; Prairie Paws Adoption Center; Central Bark dog park; and the Grand Prairie Public Safety Building.   Amenities include five lakes, a grand lawn, boardwalk, and pad sites for future retail opportunities.

Chicken N Pickle.  Opening in late 2021 just south of the hotels is Chicken N Pickle.   Chicken N Pickle is the wildly popular, indoor/outdoor entertainment complex centered around pickleball, offering a variety of games, a casual, chef-driven restaurant and sports bar.  The 77,000-square-foot venue will feature a dining room, six indoor pickleball courts, five outdoor pickleball courts (two covered), and 7,500 square feet of outdoor yard games.  A large rooftop bar, stages for live performances and the signature lawn games for which Chicken N Pickle is known round out the property. In this joint venture between the company and the City of Grand Prairie, the city will own the land, develop parking needs and lease to Chicken N Pickle.   Chicken N Pickle will operate the facility. 

Bolder Adventure.  In addition, Bolder Adventure Indoor Adventure Park broke ground in EpicCentral in August 2021.  Bolder Adventure is an indoor family entertainment facility that will provide adventure-based attractions in a 66,000-square-foot pneumatic dome structure with ceiling heights of approximately 75 feet. Guests will be offered a unique opportunity to experience rock climbing, zip lines, via ferrata, ropes courses, tubing slides, synthetic ice skating, adventure nets and more.  The venue plans to open summer 2022, and Grand Prairie would be its first nationwide location. 

Food, Fun And The Holy Spirit

Sports Lounge owner

Lifestyle & Culture Editor
Photo credit: Eva D. Coleman

The doors of 4Thirteen Kitchen & Sports Lounge are open. Let us all collectively say “Amen.” Founded by owner Angela Germany on the principles of well-known biblical scripture Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she is truly a testament of getting it done.

The large, wooden doors at the entrance of the restaurant location off of State Highway 121 in Lewisville are tall and majestic. You cannot see through them, which makes one wonder what’s inside.

“They [the doors] were already here and we just refinished them,” Germany said.

Once opened, you enter into a place filled with music, smiles and laughter. A huge, rectangular bar in the middle with chairs all around it is a focal point. Round, highboy tables with seating surround the bar area. There’s a stage ready for performances, a game area with a digital jukebox and pool table, and an expansive outdoor patio, encouraged for use by cigar and hookah enthusiasts, with tables covered with red umbrellas to shield the sun. The venue has something for everyone.

“That’s exactly what it’s about,” Germany said. “I want people to enjoy different experiences.”

Germany is no stranger to Dallas and entertainment. The Wichita, KS native is a socialite affectionately known by many as “Angela Kiss-Dallas,” a moniker from her prior KISS Entertainment of Dallas event planning and promotions company. Since moving to the metroplex in 2008, she’s hosted several signature events and parties. She chronicled her journey from idea to the opening of 4Thirteen on social media. She shared the good, bad and unexpected experiences as a restaurateur, and admits there were times she wanted to give up. However, her story of fortitude and realities has inspired a legion of friends and family.

In the midst of #Journey2Open, she lost her sister, Stafon Jackson-Bishop, to a long battle with cancer. Within 10 days of Stafon’s death, her son’s father and ex-husband passed away from medical complications of COVID-19. Both were tremendous losses of which she publicly posted about her pain and mental anguish. The opening of 4Thirteen is a testament of her strength to persevere.

With over two decades as a pharmaceutical and information technology (IT) professional, she recently resigned from her full-time job to devote efforts to 4Thirteen. She gushes at how her resignation came as a surprise to many, including her co-workers and management. She shared that her boss even mentioned it was “never on their radar” that she would leave.

Typically in a faith walk, it’s not about what you “see.”

“Life is just too short,” Germany said. “I want to do things I’m passionate about.”

Greeting guests throughout the venue and providing guidance to staff was 4Thirteen General Manager Phillicia Bryant. Bryant made her mark on Dallas nightlife long ago as chief operating officer (COO) of the legendary Tephejez Nightclub. Bringing her experience to 4Thirteen was spiritually connected.

“Early on, I asked Angela about the name 4Thirteen and told her that was my favorite Bible verse,” Bryant said, adding, “she smiled and said ‘Mine too.’”

Bryant seemed at home in the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and says she hopes 4Thirteen can be a “destination spot.” Her presence lit the space more than the numerous screens displaying sports as she floated from entrance to tables to bar then patio.

“I’m a people pleaser. I love touching tables,” Bryant said. “I love seeing people excited and enjoying themselves and having a good time.”

Bryant’s keen sense of focus on service coupled with Germany’s faith-filled vision should keep guests flowing in.

“We can pack a venue, that’s no problem,” Bryant said. “How you handle the customer will dictate whether or not you will retain them.”

4Thirteen Kitchen & Sports Lounge is located right off of State Highway 121 Frontage Road on the southbound side, just past Lake Vista Drive.

“It’s so convenient, easy access for someone coming from anywhere,” Germany said.

From hot wings to fried chicken, authentic catfish, mac & cheese and greens, the comfort food is flavorful and tasty. The famed scripture of the venue’s name on the back of some staff members’ shirts, with “Established 2021 #By-Faith” on others, brings a different level of comfort. It’s a constant reminder all throughout of “I can do all things.” Angela Germany did. And no matter what we face on life’s journey, we all can. For more information, visit 4thirteendallas.com

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