As a Georgetown University graduate, Meredith Jacobs did not plan to become ensconced in Ward 7 and morph into an entrepreneur within the food industry. It just sort of happened.
“I came to D.C. to go to college and only became interested in the food business and this specific area after interning at the Southeast White House,” said Jacobs, 29, who has resided East of the River for the last seven years, first in Fort Davis and most recently at her present address in Penn Branch. This spot has proven to be an ideal location to live, practice philanthropy and operate her growing food truck business, Granny’s Kitchen.
Jacobs was born in South Carolina to parents who originally hailed from Alabama, which remains the home of Jacobs’ beloved seventy-something year old grandmother, Lill Allen, who is heralded as a gifted cook and who was instrumental in developing Jacobs’ love for creating mouth-watering southern cuisine.
Her time in South Carolina was brief as Jacob’s parents, international development workers, moved the family to Nepal, an exotic Asian country nestled between China and India
Jacobs did not return to America until she arrived at Georgetown U. in 2009 where she earned an undergraduate degree four years later in International Business.
The Southeast White House-DC Dream Center
Jacobs began volunteering at the Southeast White House after graduation after she was introduced to the nonprofit through her church. DC Dream Center (DCDC), housed in 10,000 square feet of new construction, opened in 2017 as an extension to the Southeast White House located at 2909 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Where the Southeast White House concentrated on providing meals and mentorship to families in Ward 7, DCDC offers the same services plus legal aid, an after-school program, community computer lab, indoor basketball court and a dance studio among other services. DCDC is located behind the Southeast White House at 2826 Q Street, SE.
Jacobs honed her culinary skills by working in three restaurants between the years 2014 and 2019. She started as a team member and eventually worked her way to manager at the Shake Shack. She was a server and trainer at Farmers and Distillers and a server at All Set.
It was during a chance encounter at the Southeast White House that Jacobs met another volunteer, Babette Williams, the main cook. They quickly became friends. Jacobs knew that she had found a culinary kindred spirit after tasting the retired Howard University caterer’s scrumptious homemade meals.
“I met Meredith one night after cooking for all the volunteers that were working for the Southeast White House,” said Williams. “That night we sat down and talked and talked. She liked my cooking and asked me if I would help her when she finalized her plan to get a food truck. I said sure!” The women have formed a solid partnership and have worked together ever since as food truck operators.
That was the impetus for Granny’s Kitchen and the two women working together to bring southern comfort food to a Ward 7 clientele. Jacobs and Williams rolled out the food truck in January 2020, naming the business after the woman whose “food and spirit inspired me to go into hospitality.”
The food truck has become quite popular with Ward 7 residents. On Sundays, it is located at 3200 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, on the side of the Shops at Penn Branch from 8 to noon. Their breakfast menu—which can be found on Instagram (@grannyskitchendc), their website (www.grannyskitchendc.com) and Facebook (Granny’s Kitchen)—consists of such tasty options as salmon cakes, turkey sausage, pancakes and different types of omelets. In addition, Granny’s Kitchen caters events. To make an order, contact Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We take this food seriously. Not all food is nutritious. It is very important for young people to develop a palate for fruits and vegetables. Granny’s Kitchen exists to provide nutritious meals, foster an atmosphere of reconciliation and offer holistic economic opportunity to the (Ward 7) surrounding community,” Jacobs said while emphasizing the company’s three mottos: nutrition, reconciliation and opportunities.
Retired university professor and native Washingtonian Judy Walton has known Jacobs for five or six years and appreciates the fact that “it is southern cooking but not with the health challenged ingredients. I use little, if any, salt in my own cooking. Meredith and Babette do not use any (unnecessary) salt. That would be detrimental to the needs of our people. She’s very sensitive to the community and the customers’ health needs. The quality of the food is good and tasty, the portions are a good size and the prices are affordable.”
The pandemic has delayed but not derailed the ultimate dream that both Jacobs and Williams envision for Granny’s Kitchen. The plan was to have a physical brick and mortar establishment that would allow Williams to expand her menu to include African, Caribbean, Chinese and Mexican cuisine along with the additional soul food entrees like chicken and dumpling, catfish, pepper steak, liver and onions, meatloaf and perhaps even chitterlings.
“Our original goal was to have a permanent location in Ward 7. We were talking about having a rental commercial kitchen space, like an incubator, that would help start other businesses…COVID-19 has definitely altered the hospitality business. There is so much good community work going on by so many different organizations East of the River, but we also need businesses that will step up and offer real world employment opportunities, on the job training and mentorship to those in our own neighborhoods that are ready and willing to learn and grown professionally,” Jacobs said.
But while the team’s plans may have been delayed, they are determined that they will go forward in 2021.