Emporians will have an extra option for dining as they’re out and about this weekend.
Both Friday and Saturday, Shandelyn Stewart will bring the Food Shaq popup restaurant to Gravel City Roasters, 608 Commercial St. She will be serving up soul food from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. both days.
Stewart is no stranger to the Emporia community. Now a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, she first came to Emporia State University on a basketball scholarship. Her career on the hardwood, however, was derailed due to injuries. She said it was Gravel City Roasters Owner Angie Baker who gave her the idea to enter the hospitality/culinary arts program at Flint Hills Technical College.
She left FHTC when she got a unique opportunity due to her cooking skills.
“I got a phone call asking me if I’d like to be a personal chef for an NFL player,” Stewart said. “That’s sort of how the Food Shaq started.”
Now, she is still a personal chef while also doing catering and plenty of popup restaurants, particularly in the Kansas City area . She can often be found providing the popup restaurant experience at Verde Leaf Artisanal Company, a CBD store at 1817 McGee St. in Kansas City, which is owned by her former advisor at FHTC.
Stewart is able to serve up a wide array of dishes, but her specialty is soul food — fried chicken and wings, mac and cheese, salmon, seafood, greens and sweet potatoes, to name a few. That is what she will be bringing to Emporia this weekend. She plans to feature wings and mac and cheese on Friday evening and seafood on Saturday.
“I’ve been getting a lot of requests from people (in Emporia) to come down and do a popup restaurant,” Stewart said. “My roommate for six years is actually the manager at Gravel City Roasters, so it worked out well for me to do it there.”
She decided on the menu when she made a post on social media asking friends in the area for requests.
Having a lot of connections in town also made Emporia an ideal spot for her to bring the Food Shaq for a weekend. Though Gravel City Roasters doesn’t have a kitchen, she will use a friend’s house just a couple blocks away on Union Street to make sure the food is hot and fresh. When she does events in Kansas City, she does her cooking in her own home, but plans to get a commercial kitchen soon.
Anyone who misses the popup restaurant in Emporia — or who wants to attend another or has a catering event coming up — can check out the Food Shaq on Facebook and Instagram.
Stewart said she is excited to return to Emporia and share her culinary talents with the community.
“I’m hoping they have a great experience,” she said. “Plus, I know there aren’t a lot of soul food spots in town, so that’s why that has been my main push.”