What is Soul Bowl?
Soul Bowl is soul food reimagined for the urban millennial by Chef Gerard Klass. By using unique flavors and modern techniques, he presents the soul food from his childhood in a flavorful, healthy, and eye-catching way. There is no pork in any dish and a variety of vegetarian/vegan options to choose from. Ordering is quick service with build your own options. You can have your bowl right away, just how you want it. Yet, at the center of Soul Bowl is family. Community seating, lawn games, and Grandma's House Service create the togetherness that soul food is all about. It is a soul food experience that is sure to warm your mind, body, and soul.
Soul Bowl began the summer of 2016 in Minneapolis MN. After hosting a dinner party with close friends a conversation began about what type of restaurant Brittney and Gerard Klass should open. Many ideas were thrown around but one idea stayed with Gerard. What if you did fusion soul food in a fast casual restaurant. This idea inspired the “Klassics Pop-up Experience Vol.1” Gerard was able to attend a pop up restaurant in Miami back in 2011 while he was opening a restaurant for Kaskaid Hospitality. An up and coming chef hosted a pop up restaurant in a closed restaurant that was for sale. The pop up allowed the chef to test his concept, gain exposer to media and customers and generate revenue that he could use the buy the restaurant. This chef eventually opened his restaurant.
Gerard and Brittney decided to try this format out with Klassics Pop-up Experience Vol 1. The Pop-up was hosted in North Minneapolis, which at the time had been declared a food desert by wilder research because of its lack of access to fresh food both in restaurant and grocery stores. Gerard lived in North Minneapolis while he was in college and fell in love with the culture and the community. North Minneapolis had been given a bad wrap by the media because of police brutality and gun violence. Brittney and Gerard wanted to use soul food to change the narrative of North Minneapolis by bringing people together to celebrate the North Minneapolis culture and community. The pop up was hosted at Breaking Bread Cafe a segment of Appetite For Change, a non-profit that uses food to create social change in Minneapolis.
The Klassics pop up menu was a 3 course pre fix menu that fused soul food with other cuisines like Latin, Caribbean and French. The pop up also featured a live dj in the dining room that played classic R&B and hip hop. The pop up sold out and was very successful putting Brittney and Gerard on the map. They hosted another pop up Klassics pop up experience vol.2 a month later. With the feedback of these two pop ups they found out that their customers wanted to customize there food options and the price they’d pay. They needed more vegan and vegetarian items and more kids options. They loved the food, music and the fusion with hip hop. Gerard and Brittney took a break from pop ups and opened a catering company to be able to service the needs of people looking for catered soul food for events, business lunches and weddings. This gave Gerard and Brittney some time to refine there idea. Thus Soul Bowl was born in November 2017.
Their first Soul Bowl pop up was hosted at NEW RULES in North Minneapolis, a collective built on the idea of developing ecosystems & solutions for Black & Brown communities where economic, health & wellness and education disparities breed. The two day pop-up created a customizable, convenient soul food experience. Customers lined up around the block to get a chance to create their perfect soul bowl with all of their soul food favorites. This pop up gained them a full page spread in MSP Magazine with the title “Could Soul Bowl be Minneapolis’s New Chipotle?” After that pop up Gerard and Brittney knew they had something special and started working toward opening a brick and mortar Soul Bowl.
They continued to execute pop up restaurants to test recipes, price points, train staff, create a customer following and to generate revenue they could use toward opening the restaurant. Over the next year Soul Bowl hosted several pop ups in North Minneapolis with various menus such as the Hip-Hop Brunch, Caribe and Soul food! In 2018 a cafe in North Minneapolis was for sale. So Gerard and Brittney hosted their pop ups at this cafe looking to use the Miami pop up staggery to buy it. They launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign because of all the buzz around Soul Bowl to help raise the money they needed to buy the cafe. The Kickstarter created a lot of buzz but was unsuccessful. After funding Soul Bowl for over a year Gerard and Brittney wondered should they keep pursuing their dream.
After a summer vacation to Gerard’s grandmother’s house affectionately called Suga Momma, Gerard and Brittney witnessed one of the most amazing acts of hospitality that would reinvigorate their Soul Bowl dream. Suga Momma and Aunt Kathy were known for making extravagant meals when out of town family came home. This summer day while visiting, the electricity was knocked out and the kids all insisted on taking Suga Momma out to eat for breakfast, but she refused. The family stood amazed as they watched Suga Momma and Aunt Kathy cook an extravagant breakfast for about 20 people using a propane turkey fryer, skillet and fresh produce from the garden and it was amazing! The running joke is “the food in Suga Momma’s house is so good it makes ex husbands and ex wives be civil at the dinner table.” That day reminded them that if they wanted Soul Bowl bad enough they could make it happen and everything thing they needed was already inside them.
When they returned home they continued hosting pop us. This time with a renewed focus to streamline the concept. Soul Bowl’s catering and pop ups began to pick up steam again landing them “the best brunch in Minneapolis” from Eater Twin Cities. In March of 2019 soul Bowl landed a concession stand at the Twins Stadium Target Field. This opportunity created amazing exposure for the Soul Bowl brand. Soul Bowl’s first brick and mortar location is located in Graze provision + libations in North loop Minneapolis. Soul Bowl’s goal is to scale nationwide to become the nation’s first fast casual soul food restaurant.