Chef Jim Noble hopes people will eat well and help feed the hungry at the same time.
That's the mission of the restaurant he and his wife, Karen, plan to open in uptown Charlotte.
Noble, owner of Noble's Restaurant and Rooster's in SouthPark, and his wife have been working toward establishing King's Kitchen for 14 months, he said. In the bigger picture, it is a progression from their radio ministry, established in 1998, and their ongoing outreach to help feed poor people. The couple's weekly radio program, “The Voice of Healing Faith,” includes teaching, prayer and Bible readings.
Although the idea is to feed the poor, this won't be a soup kitchen. Rather, King's Kitchen will be a restaurant open to the public and located near Trade and Tryon streets – to catch the uptown crowds, Noble hopes. It will feature locally produced products and Southern comfort foods, including a signature pan-fried chicken. The twist is that proceeds will go to programs that feed hungry people in the Charlotte area and even internationally, as needs are identified. “If there are people out there that are feeding the poor, then I want to help them,” Noble said.
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Noble, an ordained nondenominational minister, plans to hire people who are considered by some to be unemployable, such as those who have been in prison or rehab and are putting their lives back together. “There will be some leadership there that can minister to people” and help guide the employees, Noble said.
He also noted that the workers have to join the program voluntarily. “They have to want to come,” he said.
“It's a second-step process for them,” Noble said, part of the transition back into everyday life. They will be trained to work in a nice restaurant and will be employed for six to 12 months, until they can establish a work history and experience that will enable them to get another job.
As at his other restaurants, Noble will have an executive chef who is in charge of the kitchen. Noble said he hopes to open by the end of the year – sooner if he can find a space that already is fitted out for a restaurant.
The challenge is that the Nobles, and the friends and family who have joined them in this effort, want to open the restaurant debt-free, so that all of the money can help feed the hungry from the start. They have commitments of in-kind donations, such as architecture and construction work. There also are large corporate backers, including the Carolina Panthers, Bojangles' and Coca-Cola.
To help raise the $500,000 to $600,000 needed to open King's Kitchen, Noble is staging a four-course wine dinner Thursday at Noble's in SouthPark. There will be live and silent auctions and Panthers football players will serve as waiters, wearing their jerseys rather than black tie. The dinner is open to the public, and tickets are available.
It's a way that people can eat well and help feed the poor, even before the restaurant opens.
“This town has been amazing in how much they want to help the poor,” Noble said.