No offense to Popeyes, but the only fried chicken sandwich we’ll wait in line for is made right here in Minneapolis. After honing their concept at Breaking Bread and Target Field, husband-and-wife team Gerard and Brittney Klass opened Soul Bowl at the Graze | Provisions + Libations food hall last September. Minnevangelist co-founder Andrew Parks interviewed Gerard for the new issue of Minnesota Monthly and found his story as compelling as his cooking.
The Le Cordon Bleu graduate first discovered the power of soul food during summer fish fries and family barbecues at his grandparents’ house in South Bend, Indiana. “I saw it used as a tool to bring people together,” he recalls. “Even people who didn’t get along.”
His mom and aunt taught him to cook starting at age 4; cast-iron cornbread was the first dish he made by himself. Gerard binged on Emeril Lagasse shows on TV, hung around his uncle’s Baskin-Robbins franchise in Brooklyn, and worked at Subway as a teenager. But it was a formative internship at Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 restaurant at the Walker Art Center that really taught him how to run a kitchen. “I learned quality and consistency,” says Gerard. “If the product wasn’t good or the dish wasn’t right, they didn’t serve it.”
Gerard devoted the next decade to catering, but it was after a series of lauded pop-ups in 2017 that gave him a calling: bringing the fast-casual soul food concept to life.
Customization is key to Soul Bowl’s success. “We made the menu à la carte so you’re not just picking a protein; you get to pick everything,” says Gerard. Non-meat options also abound — a menu attribute close to Gerard’s heart. (His brother is vegan and his mom is vegetarian.)
When Gerard isn’t cooking, he raps, sings, and performs spoken word poetry. He also names dishes after his favorite performers: F.U.B.U. Fried Chicken & Waffles, Drizzy Cornbread Dressing, Bodak Yellow Rice, and Jay-Z Sweet Tea, to name just a few. “Hip-hop has always been the background music to my life and the only genre telling my story as a black man in America,” says Gerard.
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Shout out to @bigkrit and the whole crew @shezdope @dibiaseatl @_sig_ @princerok for coming through to bless the Big K.R.I.T. Sandwich. We appreciate the love! Multi!!!!!!!!! #soulfood #soulbowl #bigkrit #blackfoodie #shaderoom #minneapolis #minnesota #mpls #mneats #mplsfoodie #hiphop @grazenorthloop @artofhomage #chef #cheflife #blessed #blessings #withlovefromthesouthtour @varsitytheater
A major career highlight was the day Southern rapper Big K.R.I.T. showed up before a show to sample Soul Bowl’s Big K.R.I.T. Chicken Sandwich. It’s a platinum hit: a beastly cut of crunchy-delicious fried chicken topped with crisp turkey bacon, tomatoes, greens, and honey hot sauce, and served on a toasted everything bun.
The Klasses are not modest about their ambitions. “Our plans are to take over the world,” says Gerard. “I want Soul Bowl to be as big as Chipotle one day. Right now, we are working on winning over Minnesota.”
Soul Bowl at Graze | Provisions + Libations
520 N. 4th St., Ste. 202, Minneapolis, MN; 612-567-7044.