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Community, judges send ‘Soul’ to mall

Chef Char Seafood-n-Soul is heading inside Parkway Plaza in early August after Chef Char, Charlene Plummer, earned the coveted spot by winning the mall’s Taste for the Space culinary competition and community activation that took place on Oct. 15, 2022.

Parkway Plaza Marketing and Business Development Manager Petra Rich said it was an outdoor competition with 12 local businesses competing for a $20,000 business investment and three months of free rent to open at the Plaza.

“The winner was chosen by a mix of community votes, as well as input from our panel of judges who were culinary experts from San Diego and our local El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells,” she said. “We also considered investment for the center, what made the most sense for the space we had available, and once all those things added up, Chef Char made a lot of sense for us. She brings something that we do not have in the food court, and we are excited to bring this to our shoppers here at Parkway Plaza. We can’t wait to introduce Chef Char and have her grand opening.”

Plummer said they are waiting for final inspections and signage and expects the eatery to open in the first two weeks of August if all goes well.

Plummer, a biomedical researcher and registered nurse began her journey with Chef Char Seafood-n-Soul during the COVID-19 pandemic, deciding to create the catering and event business because of her love of cooking.

“I started cooking at a very young age with my grandmother in Little Rock, Arkansas and my family out of New Orleans,” she said. “It is kind of a mix of that. We are from the East Coast before moving to San Diego. We do seafood, soul food, with a Maryland style or Louisiana twist. Things like gumbo, jambalaya, catfish, fried chicken, seafood boils in either Louisiana or Maryland style, whichever are people’s preferences.”

Plummer said the menu is a mix of family recipes and has added some of her own. She said while doing the Seafood and Soul Fest last year someone walked up to her and provided her with an application for the contest and encouraged her to enter.

“That was after they had tried my gumbo and jambalaya,” she said. “I spoke with my daughters and asked if this was something they wanted to try, and we decided to just go for it. We got started here in San Diego because of my oldest daughter had turned 16 and it is really hard to get a job here in San Diego. So, I created Chef Char Seafood-N-Soul to make space for her, my other daughter, and their friends, giving them the opportunity to work and make their own money, and to continue a female entrepreneurship, something that they could have, and something that maybe they could pass down to their families.”

Plummer said she plans to start with a basic menu of gumbo, jambalaya, catfish, and fried chicken.

“What I will do so that some of the other people can try some other parts of our menu is to do a weekly special,” she said.

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