BELLPORT, LONG ISLAND (CBSNewYork) – In the basement of the Shiloh Temple Church of God in Christ, you’ll find Cheryl Grigg stirring and seasoning over a hot stove. The underground restaurant is Chara’s Kitchen and Catering, named for her late mother.
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For Cheryl, the kitchen is a place to process emotions.
“I guess cooking is like therapy,” she said. “That’s really how it started. It was a way to grieve and remember good times,” she told CBS2’s Elle McLogan.
When she lost her mother, she quit her nursing job.
“I was like, ‘You know what? We’re going to cook.'”
She and her sister Thelma began preparing and tweaking the recipes her mother used to make. A food sale grew into a full-fledged catering company, and soon, they were seeking a permanent venue.
When their father Dr. Earl V. Grigg was appointed pastor at the Shiloh Temple, he helped convert the church’s small underground space into a full-service restaurant.
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The downstairs entrance to Chara’s is invisible from the street.
“It kind of goes to show, if the food is good, they’ll find you,” she said.
Locals from Bellport, Patchogue, and Mastic come for buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and macaroni with extra cheese.
In each dish, Cheryl shares her mother’s spirit.
“She is soul food. She’s comfort. She’s a hug. She is light,” she said. “We’re just keeping her legacy going.”
Cheryl says her family gives her the strength to run a business.
“My husband is my biggest support,” she said.
Her two-year-old son Ethan greets customers with enthusiasm.
“Ethan is the mayor,” she said.
Her father gets to call his lunch order to his daughter from his office, which is separated from the restaurant by a doorway.
“The banana pudding is supreme. The ribs are supreme,” he said.
Cheryl’s achievement fills him with pride.
“She is a gift to the community,” he said.
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For Cheryl, soul food is not merely a type of cuisine.
“It’s warm. It’s cozy. It’s home,” she said. “It’s a memory.”
Chara’s Kitchen and Catering
515 Atlantic Avenue
Bellport, NY 11713