Charita Jones came to fame after her Brighton restaurant, Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack, appeared on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in 2005. On Tuesday, US-born Jones held a special event to mark the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She spoke to Kerstin Kühn ahead of the event
Caterer Tell us more about the Obama event.
Charita Jones In the last 12 years no one has really cared about the new US president, but with Obama it's different. He's really stirred up emotions and given people hope, so I'm putting on a big celebration. All through the day people can pop in, have some food and read through magazines and books on Obama I have collected - and there'll be an open microphone giving everybody the chance to say what's on their mind. I've also created a book of hopes and dreams, where I want everyone to sign their names and write down their hopes and dreams for the future. This is a big day, and I want people to remember that when Obama was inaugurated they were at Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack celebrating. And for all those who have to work on Tuesday, there'll be another party on Sunday (25 January).
CatererWhat does Obama's election mean for the USA?
CatererWhat was it like being on Kitchen Nightmares?
CJ It was fantastic and one of the best experiences of my life. It put us in the public eye not just on a national but also on an international level, and it really taught me that you can't give up on your dreams. The show allowed the restaurant to remain open and gave me a lot of energy and confidence to keep going.
CatererHow difficult was it to keep Gordon Ramsay's regime in place afterwards?
CJ It was hard, especially because after the programme we grew way too quickly. One of the negative aspects of the show is that once it's done you're on your own, and they don't give you any aftercare. I needed more management advice and ran into a lot of problems.
CatererYour restaurant collapsed into administration last year. What happened?
CJ On the back of the programme banks started to talk to us, so we took on much larger premises, but then the banks pulled out and we were stuck with very big rent payments. While the customers kept coming, there wasn't enough money to pay the suppliers, and we had no choice but to call in the administrators. My daughter bought the business, so we're still here, but things aren't easy. I'm still hoping that one day someone will step in and help us out, because there needs to be a place offering soul food in the UK.
By Kerstin KÁ¼hn