On May 14, The Food Fort’s campus was transformed into a culinary battleground, pitting three of Columbus’ best-kept southern-style secrets against each other in The Food Fort’s first-ever Fried Chicken Throwdown.
The cooking competition, held in front of an audience of over 150 local “foodies,” served as a showcase for The Modern Southern Table, a restaurant concept coming to Columbus, and two local food trucks — The Rolling Kitchen and Queen’s Table. The rules were simple: prepare your signature fried chicken dish and pair it with a complementary southern side.
The esteemed judging panel consisted of Rebecca Wagner of Columbus Underground, the popular online media outlet that covers all things local, Robin Corsey from Cbus Local Love, a trendy blog that covers everything from food to local events, and Chef Cleon Washington of SuperChef’s Gahanna, a growing restaurant company originally launched downtown. By incorporating a “fan-favorite,” attendees were also given the opportunity to have their voices heard. Four categories — presentation, taste, texture and originality — determined the winner.
Once the dust settled, The Modern Southern Table was declared the judge and fan favorite. Owner, Sadaya Lewis, who is famous for winning The Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” was enthusiastic in victory claiming, “Fried chicken isn’t even my best dish!”
“It was a great opportunity to get our name out to the Columbus community as we plan to move into this area,” Lewis said. “We were just happy to meet all the other wonderful food-based businesses that operate out of The Food Fort. That was my favorite part of the entire night!”
Last February, Lewis was granted a year’s worth of free rent in Zanesville’s Colony Square Mall by outshining the competition on The Food Network’s popular series that pits budding restaurant entrepreneurs against each other in a sales-driven competition. While Lewis was thrilled with the exposure her win garnered, she soon realized that Colony Square Mall was not the best location for her concept. Seeing very little food traffic during the week, The Modern Southern Table plans to explore another avenue to bring their gastronomic excellence to Columbus.
The Modern Southern Table has their eyes set on opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Columbus, after having already established fans among the local, mobile food community.
“I was waiting in line for Kenny’s Meat Wagon when he noticed me from the Throwdown,” Lewis noted. “He immediately stopped serving and made an announcement to the line that we served ‘the best chicken in the universe!’ We hope that the Columbus community agrees.”
— Sadaya Lewis came to ECDI to help finance kitchen adjustments at The Modern Southern Table. She plans to grow her catering business through the use of The Food Fort. Powered by ECDI, The Food Fort is a food-based business incubator that provides clients access to specialized business training, as well as a commercial kitchen for cooking, baking and prep needs. The Food Fort strives to give its members access to new markets and networks to optimize business opportunities. They currently represents over 40 locally based food businesses, including The Rolling Kitchen and Queen’s Table food trucks. —