Yealang Smith Plans to Bring Soul to Hollywood

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For the past six years, Chef Yealang Smith has been working to find a wider audience for her soul food. Now she’s only five months away from delivering Soul to the Hollywood Professional Building, and it’s thanks to catering.

“Catering has been the backbone of my restaurant experiences,” says Smith. “Six years ago, we catered event for a company called CIM.” That night, Smith found an unexpected advocate in CIM Group Principal Jeff Kreshek, who loved her fried chicken. Kreshek showed up at Soul Folks Café, Smith’s spot on Traction Avenue in the Arts District, and ordered the Laker’s All-Star Special, a massive combo meal involving fried snapper and peach cobbler. His first taste of soul was clearly no fluke. Six months later, Kreshek called Smith, saying, “We have an opportunity for you.” In case you’re unfamiliar with CIM Group, it’s one of the largest real estate funds in Los Angeles, so this was a fortuitous call, to say the least.

Smith was born in North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles when she was six months old, so her mother could teach at USC. When Smith was 10 or 11, she came home from school, only to discover that her mother had thrown away every processed food in the house. This informed Smith’s belief in healthy ingredients. “When people think of soul food, people think their heart is clogging up,” says Smith. “We can get these amazing flavors and not kill you.”

Smith has “flipped the script on the traditional Southern menu.” At Soul, she plans to fry chicken, but also grill chicken. “I’m a grill master, grilling and smoking,” says Smith. “I do these different techniques. I love marinating and searing. Bobby Flay, watch out.”

“Since I’ve had a few years to focus and get ready to launch Soul, I can’t wait to unleash it,” she says. Soul has become so consuming that when Smith goes to sleep, she dreams recipes.

Smith has been doing a lot of dreaming. She’s developed a massive menu, saying, “There’s so much I want to cook…I’m going to be dropping bomb ass specials on people…I buy seasonal, whatever’s popping, whatever’s freshest.”

Soul will be open 24 hours a day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

At breakfast, “You’ve gotta have banana pancakes.” Smith is also “an omelet crazy person. There’s nothing like great eggs and real home fried potatoes.” That means real potatoes sautéed with onions, peppers and garlic in a black skillet. There will also be bacon and turkey and chicken sausages.

Later in the day, Smith will smoke baby back ribs and make “outrageous” New Orleans style seafood gumbo with fresh crab, chicken and Andouille sausage served over brown rice. Smith has been experimenting with her fried chicken, but won’t be satisfied until she discovers the “most non-harmful oil.”

For dessert, Smith has mastered peach cobbler, but she found another woman to bake “bomb tarts. Your feet curl when you eat them.” Think sweet potato, pecan and lemon, plus “this outrageous little bread pudding bite.” That’s not all. Smith will also serve Southern style teacakes, lemon meringue, chocolate cake and apple pie.

To drink, Soul will pour sweet tea and homemade lemonade. “I’m talking real lemons where you get pulp,” says Smith. “You might come across a seed or two.”

Soul will have two full bars, specializing in Southern style cocktails, including “a mint Julep unlike any other.” “My family has a history of bootleggers, so I’ve got liquor in my blood,” says Smith. “My family used to make corn liquor in the backyard and sell it.”

The location: “The Hollywood Professional Building, built in the 1880s, the first high-rise on Hollywood Boulevard.” It was unoccupied for 31 years before CIM decided to redevelop it. “Because that space is so old, it has vaulted ceilings and brick walls,” says Smith. “You feel like you’re in New York City…It’s not going to be fussy, it’s going to be clean, artsy. Art and music are very important to my soul.”

When it comes to service, Smith said, “My goal is to have an international serving staff, really take time to train the staff to anticipate, really take care of people, keep it real.”

Smith also plans to launch a line of products, primarily marinades and sauces, saying, “Not only do you have Soul in the restaurant, you can take it home.”

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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George Vreeland Hill

Chef Yealand is amazing!
She is the Rembrandt of food.

George Vreeland Hill

Yealang,

Where have you been? Over the years,(15 or more) you have ALWAYS come through for me with the utmost professionalism, presentation, and powerfully delicious fare! What can I do for you??? Please contact me.

i LOVE THIS IDEA.mORE POWER TO THE “SOUL”.

Thank’s for everything. Love SEVEN!

Yealang,
congratulations on your continued success. I’ll have to come through on my next trip to L.A.
Richard
Howard in da House!

Hey Yealang,
My hat’s off to you. My parents still talk about the party you catered for them and your style and finesse. Can’t wait for your opening!

Your “goodness” is really infectious! I feel so blessed to have shared time with you during the “formative years,” and anxiously await the presentation and arrival of Soul Hollywood! Peace and Blessings, Can

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Shamala Bennu Auset

Yea,
I remember when I came home from USC one day and you had cooked a 7 course meal, cleaned house, changed the furniture around in the living room and had Diana Ross and the Supremes blowing on the hi fi. That day I realized again that I had given birth to someone who had been here before, sent by the ancient ones, again bearing the “light.”

Leon, October 4, 2008

Yealang:

Though we haven’t met, I know yo’ mama, girl! We are cousins, and she has enthusiastically shared your story with me. I appreciate reading about the sumptuous meals you prepare, and I am getting hungry just imagining throwing down at your spot.

Though I live on the East Coast, back in your Native North Carolina, I have friends in the LA area, and visit occasionally. Hearing and reading about Soul in Hollywood, I feel a visit coming on.

Keep up the great work; I look forward to meeting you, reconnecting with family, and of course, getting my grub on at Soul!

Peace & abundant blessings!

ALM

Hey girl. All the love to you. Cannot wait to hang out at your spot. Make sure you let me know when the openning night is so we can come have drinks.

<3

I will never forget that hot fried chicken you made for me when you were about 12 years old!! I am so happy to be your cousin enjoying so many wonderul holiday dinners. I am very excited about Soul in Hollywood!

I will never forget the birthday party you catered for me in 2005. The spread of endless gorgeous food looked too spetacular to eat. Then we got real and ate like Kings and Queens. All my guests raved over the sumptuous food that night. Off the chart fried chicken, your special chilean sea bass, 3 kinds of potatoes, suculent veggies; the list goes on. Well that was 3 years ago. Then I get a call last week from one of my guests that night asking about the food and who prepared it. So I dropped your name BIG – as I so proudly do when I engage in foods and catering conversations. Much love, best wishes. I’ll be sending my people to Soul in Hollywood for sure!!!

Hi Yealang,
I want you to know that I can’t stop thinking about your opening day. I took some friends from out of town by your place and they said to me when they come back your place will be the 1st place they will eat at while revisiting LA.
They were so excited and they have not even set a foot in an incompleted masterpiece. As to say,they were on the outside trying to look in and could only dream and imagine how wonderful an atmosphere you intend to create,”Your Own Black Hollywood” for the great success God has plan for you.

This is your fellow Howard U Alumni reaching out to you and saying email me ASAP I need to talk to you. I am Tim Robinson Fraternity Brother and Friend of Shelby. I tried to call you but you had your fax machine hooked up. Let’s get together soon. God Bless You and Your Family. Respectfully yours…………Ralph Grimes.

I have 1st hand experience with “Soul”! Chef Yealang has no limits… She makes masterpieces at the drop of a hat… Much success Queen!

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