Cafe Society

America's Next Great Restaurant winner Jamawn Woods blames Chipotle for Soul Daddy's failure

Just over a month ago, Jamawn Woods shuttered the last of his three Soul Daddy locations. That was the fast-casual chain he was trying to get going with the help of Chipotle CEO Steve Ells, Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone and Lorena Garcia after that team of investors awarded him the grand prize on America's Next Great Restaurant.

But while the show and chain are now a thing of the past, the saga continues: Woods is publicly blaming Chipotle for his failure.

According to TMZ, Woods is angry because Chipotle was supposed to furnish a crack management team for each of his outposts that would stay on for at least a year and help him smoothly transition into running a three-shop operation. Instead, he says, the Denver-based burrito empire sent him a group of inexperienced hacks who couldn't cook soul food or run a soul food restaurant. Oh, and they bailed just shy of two months. Which, claims Woods, is why his restaurants failed.

Then again, investors give negative cash flows and the challenges of the fast-casual industry as the reasons they pulled out so early in the game. As for the management teams, well, maybe Ells was holding onto his best people for his own new concept, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, slated to open its first restaurant in Washington, DC, in the next month or so.

Though he hasn't taken legal action -- yet -- Woods also says the show owes him his promised first-year salary of $46,000.

Will America's Next Great Restaurant become America's Next Great Lawsuit?

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk