Soul food restaurant cooking
Chef Nick Aikens has spent much of his life in the kitchen with his family. He got his start working for his aunt in 1952. Since then, he is served meals to Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley, but, above all, Aikens says he is “cooking for the people.”
Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken, has been in the Food and Restaurant industry since 1952 when he began work in his Aunt’s restaurant. After graduating high school, he attended Johnson Junior College and upon graduating continued in the foodservice business such as it has become what his life is about and each dish is a masterpiece. “I’ve developed a reputation for being a good cook and that has opened many doors for me.” Nick has had the privilege of serving Muhammad Ali, Coretta Scott King, and Elvis Presley when he played in concerts at the sports complex.
He now runs his own restaurant with his wife and his daughter. Over the last 20 years, Nikki’s Place has become a staple of Orlando’s Paramore neighborhood. Aikens started the restaurant in 1999, naming it after his daughter Shannea “Nikki” Akins, who will eventually take over the business. Nikki’s has enjoyed rare success during the pandemic. Takeout-only — their current setup — was an easy changeover for a business where folks have been bringing home dinner for ages.]
“I never realized before how many to-go orders we had from people dining in,” says Shannea Akins. “They’d come in, eat their food and then order plates to go. There’s something about the food here. It’s just a magical thing. It’s not fancy. It’s not fusion. It’s nostalgia. It reminds people of the good, Southern food they used to have when they were growing up.” Catering, too — from the City of Orlando, the police department, and elsewhere — has been brisk and regular.
“We didn’t ever really fall down,” says Inez. “In fact, we’ve gone up. And I think that’s because we have consistency — good food, good service and we’re always trying to do everything we can to help out the community.” Akins is grateful today, but recalls jokingly, with a teenager’s bleary tone, the memory of weekend days she’d be prodded from bed to give away food. “When somebody comes here and says they don’t have anything, we give them a plate,” says her father. “We call it a Happy Meal.”
They’re huge servings of happiness. Plates here — smothered pork chops or rib tips, oxtail, chitterlings — are formidable, and among the most popular. At 10, Aiken proved to be every inch the “good little worker,” Ms. Jones observed that very first day over the bus tub. In high school, he doubled down with a cafeteria job so he could make his own money. His take from Roser’s had gone to help his family.
Nikki’s Place specializes in catering for weddings, church events, colleges, and corporate events. We understand when putting on a big event the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you made the best choice for catering.
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