Editor's note: Jessica Ann is a restaurant owner who's blogging about trying to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic at My Rebound by FOX 17. She founded The Candied Yam, a Grand Rapids restaurant serving Southern cuisine, in 2016. She is married with a daughter who just graduated high school and an adult son. She lives in Kentwood.
My restaurant is located close and only down the street from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport so we get lots of visitors that are new to the city. I always get asked two questions from them: 1. What’s my favorite thing on my menu? 2. What should they order?
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People will ask me what’s MY most favorite thing on my menu because they want direction as what to order. We have a small and very specific menu which features five meats and eight sides. I tell them absolutely everything is the best! If you want savory and crispy get our fried chicken. If you want good old comfort, then get the meatloaf. If you want fish that’s divine, get the catfish. If you want pork chops because you never make them at home or you can’t cook them right, get the chops. I personally created the menu thus all my favorites are on it! Except for corn. I love me some corn. I could eat it every day, but the amount of butter I require on it would take me over my daily caloric allowance. Ha! True. I put sweet corn and peppers on the menu originally, but absolutely no one ordered it. Not one person. Then I decided to give it a new home and placed it on the catering menu ... and now everyone orders it. Lol!
When guest are done ordering or dining they never fail to ask two more question: 1.) “where else should I eat”. 2.) “what attractions or places should we visit while we’re here”?
I LOVE to answer these questions. I usually have to release myself from whatever role I am doing because I love Kent County and pride myself on ‘being in the know’. So, after I pose them a question or two - like what type of cuisine do you like or what type of activities do you like or is there anything that you’ve heard of that you want a local’s perspective on?! Me asking those specific questions helps me to give a more well rounded answer so that they can have a more enjoyable stay. Why have someone visiting the museum when they would much rather prefer hitting our awesome trails? OR have them eating at a seafood place when they have a shellfish allergy?! I think it’s very apropos to support as many local businesses as one possibly can to help keep the diverse flavor of a community - if you will.
It is truth in saying that I consider myself a person who likes to ‘investigate’ things. If there is a ‘new’ something coming soon or a grand opening happening, you could easily find me on the guest list. I have also been known by my family and friends to pop up places and inquire ‘what’s happening behind this construction?’ I’m not a nosy person, but rather inquisitive. I like to know what’s happening and what’s new. Not everything, just some things. Helps me to be the best cheerleader. I have heard some locals complain about not having things to do. There are lots of things to do, but it’s just finding the things that THEY WANT to do - here. Depending on the activity and with whom you choose to do it with can create that feeling.
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My days are very long. They start very early in the morning and typically end around 8 or 9 am. At that time, I put my head on my pillow and within three minutes, I am asleep and dead to the world. I sleep like a baby! I would like to think that it is because I have had a long day full of production, but honestly, I think it’s because I personally enjoy spending time with family and friends AND EATING! My hubby calls food my ‘first love’. He could be right! I plan meals or other restaurant visits in or out of town and they can sometimes be the highlight of my day or week. I love my foods and my Sissy and I LIVE to try new restaurants or make new interesting dishes. I actually get some of those ideas from people who visit my restaurant. Not only am I living my best life, my taste buds are living the best life ever!