The Pittsburgh region isn’t known for its Southern-style cooking, but Vickey Giddens of Vickey’s Soul Grill is going to change that.
“My family is from Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and my father was a chef,” says Giddens. “When I was 6 years old, I watched my father, and I let that be my dream, to be a chef like my dad.
Today, Giddens has two Vickey’s Soul Grill locations: one at 655 Rodi Road and the other in Wilkinsburg at 807 Wallace Avenue in the Hosanna House. Both offer a menu of items that will make your mouth water.
“My popular foods are pork chops fried and smothered, deep-fried salmon croquettes, candied yams, collard greens, black-eyed peas, green beans, and mac and cheese. The oxtails are a number-one hit, and everything’s Southern-style.”
How did this Mississippi native end up in Pennsylvania? Giddens thought the region would bring great learning opportunities.
“Believe it or not, Pittsburgh has a lot of culinary schools. My passion for being somewhere brand-new drew me to love it here, so I went to the University of Pittsburgh and took classes at Katz Graduate School of Business in the Health Department discipline. I was just so eager to learn.”
In addition to Giddens’ talent and drive, she credits her success to the Idea Foundry, a program that “takes your ideas and brings them into reality.” Founded in 2002, Idea Foundry is a Pittsburgh-based global investor focused on social impact.
“They took my vision, dream, and goals and brought them to life. They got me a little kitchen inside the Y in McKeesport, and that’s when it started to prosper from there. They saw that this woman really has something! People were flocking to me like never before.”
The Idea Foundry connected her with Happy Valley Lunch Box, which also helps entrepreneurs pursue their dreams. She started working with Lunch Box to grow Vickey’s Soul Grill, where she completed six weeks of training “to blossom in the right way.”
“My soul food isn’t fly by night. It’s legit and done professionally. Soul food has a bad rap, that you cook with a lot of fatty things. Not so. I know how to reach your taste buds without all that extra stuff involved. I use the proper seasonings and herbs for each dish. Plus, each one of my items has its own equipment. I don’t want to eat French fries and have them taste like fish.”
Giddens says she does a lot of food research and even visits other establishments to compare. In addition to serving delicious Southern homestyle cooking, she believes Vickey’s Soul Grill has a lot to offer to the community.
“You have to have real customer service skills and a passion for your food. I aim to please my guests. I’m one-on-one with my customers and love everyone I come in contact with. If something is not right, it’ll be right before you leave this establishment. Your dollar is what makes this place.”
Just as Vickey’s Soul Grill flourished with the right support, the WCDC offers vital resources to help local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive. From developing your business plan to navigating financial hurdles and commercial development, the WCDC provides tailored assistance for every stage of your business journey. Connect with a network of peers and experts, and access valuable workshops and services right here in Wilkinsburg. Visit wilkinsburgcdc.org to explore the many ways that the WCDC can support your business ambitions and contribute to our vibrant community.
You can find Vickey’s Soul Grill on Rodi Road and the Hosanna House as well as spot it on a commercial airing on Channel 11, MeTV, and PCNC.