Sauce Magazine – SimplyCookingWithDonna will bring soul food takeout to downtown St. Louis next week
SimplyCookingWithDonna is bringing take-away soul food to downtown St. Louis next week
On Thursday February 11th, Donna Vickers, visited by Chef Donna, will be serving SimplyCookingWithDonna, a to-go style soul food restaurant, in a 2,000 square foot kitchen on the fourth floor of the St. Patrick Center Open at 800 N. Tucker Blvd. in downtown St. Louis. The new company is an accumulation of Vickers’ culinary successes.
“I always kept in mind that I should run a restaurant,” said Vickers. “I knew the potential was there.”
Her menu has been in development for over 16 years and consists of a variety of dishes that she has learned to perfect. Many of these were inspired by the food their father James Johnson – who is from Alabama – originally gave to their mother Delores Johnson, a St. Louis native. Chicken is their specialty whether fried, grilled, or roasted, but there are a variety of other options too, including pork chops, hamburgers, pasta, and salad.
“I’ve been able to expand their recipes and create a more diverse menu and just food that everyone loves,” Vickers said.
Although Vickers had never cooked as an adult, she describes being in the kitchen with her mother at a young age as a transformative experience.
“We had a connection in the kitchen,” said Vickers. “She would make dinner, I would come over, and some people can just jam in one atmosphere and we could. Before she died, I talked to her about Thanksgiving dinner and she said, ‘Donna, you’re the cook now. ‘“
After the baton was handed over to Vickers, she ran with it. In addition to her regular work as a nurse, which she had practiced since 1995, in 2006 she was appointed director of the culinary missionary in her church, who was responsible for 30 staff. In 2008 she began a culinary program at Saint Louis Community College – Forest Park.
“I set my budget, created my menu, and orchestrated the staff,” said Vickers. “From opening to closing, it was my responsibility. We did the picnics and all the church events that sometimes had thousands of people in attendance. ”
In this position, she found that there was a real need for her food. She started selling her own specialty condiment online, developed her own cookbook, and started her own catering business, also known as SimplyCookingWithDonna. It was a hit.
“At the trade shows, our lines would be wrapped,” said Vickers. “They’d have to close us at the end of the night.” That was in 2019 and it gave her the confidence to begin work on her plans to open the restaurant.
“We thought 2020 was our year,” said Vickers. “And then Covid came along and there was so much talk about restaurant closings and catering went down to zero. So I had to choose which way to go. “
At this point the idea came up to offer a restaurant that was only suitable for take-away. They found the right place downtown and decided to focus their efforts on making their food available as safely as possible.
The food will be available through three third-party delivery services: Uber Eats, DoorDash, and GrubHub. In addition, there is an internal delivery staff as well as telephone and online orders and contactless pick-up at the roadside or pick-up on the first floor of the building. Customers can call or place their orders online. On this occasion, she finally hopes to be able to expand to offer seating. But right now, security is key.
“I want to make sure people are safe – that staff are safe,” Vickers said. “But that we are also able to get good food into people’s hands.”
SimplyCookingWithDonna is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.