ministry

An excellent meal

by Steve Brock on March 10, 2015

Kings Kitchen InteriorAlmost a year ago, my colleague and I are in Charlotte, NC for business, hungry and confused by the various recommended food options on Yelp. So we find a restaurant the old fashion way: We drive around and see what is crowded.

We spot an intriguing looking restaurant on the corner, The King’s Kitchen. We double check on Yelp. Great reviews. We park and go in.

Even at 1:30 p.m., the place still has the ambient hum of multiple white collar workers finishing up their lunches. This is uptown Charlotte, blocks away from the headquarters of financial giants like Bank of America. We are seated. The menu is “new Southern” and inviting. I order something I’ve never had in a restaurant before, pot roast with three sides of various vegetables.

I can’t verify that my eyes close when I take the first bite, but I can say I’ve never tasted a better pot roast in my life (sorry, Mom). Every aspect of the meal generates excited comments between my colleague and me. As our plates are cleared and we’re waiting for the check, however, I look around and realize something seems out of place.

The restaurant has a great vibe, modern with an island-like bar surrounded by tables which in turn line the two large walls of windows. But something seems different from other trendy restaurants and that’s when I realize what it is: the music.

The background music is contemporary Christian. Not something you hear in cool restaurants where I live.

The manager comes by and asks how things are. We rave about the food. Then I ask about the music. She smiles. “We’re not just a restaurant. We’re a ministry. Stick around another hour and we’ve got a bible study starting at 3:00. Come here Saturday morning and you can help distribute food to the homeless. Come here Sunday, and the owner, Chef Jim Noble (who is also an ordained pastor) will be preaching at our church service. And your waiter and all the others? Most come from the streets or out of rehab programs or prison and are trained here.”

As we leave, the manager introduces me to Jim Noble He’s here meeting with an architect, one who, it turns out, designs restaurant interiors all over the world. They’re discussing ways to make further improvements to the space. I tell Jim how impressed we are, how it not only is a great ministry, but great food.

He nods. He runs several other award-winning restaurants in the area. “You can have the best intentions, but if the food isn’t up there, you won’t succeed,” he says.

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Last month, I’m back in Charlotte with another colleague. I tell him about the King’s kitchen (I only notice the intentional capitalization later) and he eagerly agrees to go there for dinner. I order salmon with a winter squash puree, glazed oyster mushrooms, brussels and bacon. If possible, this meal is even better than my first.

Afterwards, we talk to Steve Hendrick, the general manager (pictured in the photo). I tell him of my previous experience, of our praise for what they’ve done here. He’s appreciative. He informs us that they are now fully self-supporting as a business (even though 100% of profits go locally to feeding the hungry). That they are packed most every night. That they’ve just been nominated as one of the top restaurants in Charlotte.

We congratulate him. And most of all, we thank him for what he, Jim Noble and all the staff and volunteers have accomplished: They have done ministry with excellence.

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Excellence. It’s not always a word we associate with ministries. But when I see a place like the King’s kitchen doing good and doing well with quality, I’m deeply inspired. It makes me want to apply those same standards to all I do. Not just in my profession, but also at my church or in my volunteer work with other non-profits I know.

Most people say excellence matters. But if you’re ever in Charlotte, go to King’s kitchen and see what it looks like in action. Or even better, go and taste it for yourself.

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