GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As soon as The Candied Yam opened on Monday morning at 9 a.m., customers were already gathering around the front door.
It’s rare for the popular restaurant to open on a Monday. The owner Jessica Tyson and her staff typically close and rest from their usual busy week.
However, since it was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, she decided to open and honor him by giving away their award-winning meals for free to anyone who walked through their door.
“We actually saved our tips for the month of December, and we’re able to do this labor of love. We call it Random Yams of Kindness,” Tyson said during an interview Monday morning. “So we’re able to do this because our team pulled together the tips, and we saved them so that we can give back to the community.”
The specialty on the menu was their famous Sweet Potato French Toast Bake. For two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, people ordered that meal and other traditional southern cuisine.
“Bottom line, it’s all about love.” @TheCandiedYamGR honoring Dr. King and his message of love by giving away their award-winning meals for free to whomever walked through their door. #mlk #MLKDay #MondayMotivation— Lauren Edwards (@LaurenEdwardsTV) January 18, 2021
(((Story to come soon on @FOX17 ))) pic.twitter.com/IUupw9r1Pb
Customer Antoinette Smith said she doesn’t live in the area but doesn’t mind driving to Candied Yam to get their food. She appreciated Tyson for being so generous during these tense time.
“In this political state that we’re in, a lot of people are self-serving and self-seeking,” Smith said. “But this is a situation where she’s actually giving to others despite what they believe.”
Tyson said it was important for her to honor Dr. King in any way they could. She remembers her parents telling her stories of segregation and what it was like eating in restaurants in the 1950s and '60s. Black people were not allowed to eat with White customers and sometimes were denied service or entrance into the establishment.
However, she said Dr. King represented unity to her.
“He represents the fact that we need to make sure that we have more diversity. Everyone gets a seat at the table,” Tyson said. “I would just like to think that today he would be proud of our efforts to bring the people together.”
She said that's what food does is it brings people together. Everyone is welcomed at the Candied Yam. She hopes that Dr. King’s message of love fills her customers up more than the food itself.
“We can’t get enough love,” Tyson said. “We’re in an age right now with COVID where we can’t have that physical touch. So being able to express ourselves with our smiles it’s a secret weapon.”