Women Entrepreneurship Week 2019

Sandra McNeil Rodgers

Founder | SoulBites

Sandra McNeil Rodgers, or “Chef Sandi,” is founder of SoulBites, head chef and an Institute of Culinary Arts graduate. Sandi always dreamed of opening a restaurant. As a teenager she moved from Tompkins Projects in Brooklyn to live with her grandparents in a little southeastern Georgia town called Statesboro. There she spent a great deal of her summers learning to purchase feed for the family’s livestock as well as curing and storing meats for winter months. She learned to can and preserve peaches and make delicious watermelon rind preserves following her grandmother’s recipes. Fresh vegetables from her grandparents’ garden were transformed into flavorful dinner and supper dishes as Chef Sandi would “revamp” each recipe as she still does today in the family restaurant and catering business. As she was allowed to cook for her grandparents, it became evident that her scrumptious comfort food dishes not only satisfied their hunger, but did something to their soul. Her grandmother, a private chef for many years, believed soul food wasn’t “ethnic” cooking, but a patient, intentional process of cooking each dish with love and soul. She helped kick-start Chef Sandi’s love of cooking. Sandi inherited her grandmother’s ability to “scratch out” a recipe from any ingredients she had on hand, without measuring or making waste but somehow cooking enough for everyone who took a seat at the table. This would come in handy years later when Chef Sandi had a family of her own and served dishes for family and friends with very little provisions or ingredients available. The original concept behind Sandi’s (also known as Sandi’s SoulBites) is based on her “wastes not, want not” belief. Dishes are prepared in portion sizes providing delicious bites to satisfy even the most picky eater. Chef Sandi cooks with the same love and soul for each customer as she does for her family.