FORT WORTH, Texas -- Rosako Bailey has a chance at a break, and he deserves one.
In the pandemic, the persevering owner of Rosako's Soul Food & BBQ has gone from the Food Network and the Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" to barely paying the rent on his Bedford home-cooking restaurant.
"At one point I cried a couple of tears," Bailey said on a recent Eats Beat podcast on iTunes.
"Customers were bringing me money. ... . I have a huge support base -- I'm very appreciative for that."
On top of business cutbacks and meat prices, a blown transformer and then a leaking gas line cost him both work days and a freezer full of food.
He's still open daily except Mondays, selling plenty of rib tips, jerk wings, jalapeno-cheddar sausage and pulled pork, along with sides such as candied yams, collard greens and mac-and-cheese.
Now, his work feeding the homeless has made him a finalist for a $10,000 "Cheers to Heroes" award.
Seattle-based Sparkling Ice is conducting the voting in connection with the Virginia-based Honor Flight charity. The voting is online at sparklingice.com.
Bailey's customers nominated him. They see how he's poured his heart into his restaurant, inside an old Taco Bell at 2816 Brown Trail north of Texas 183.
On the contest page, Bailey wrote that he was in Fort Worth renewing his permits when he drove past the mission district of homeless shelters near downtown Fort Worth.
"It was hundreds of people who were (lying) on the ground in tents," he wrote, and his children asked why they were there.
Finally, "with tears in their eyes," he wrote, they asked him to help.
Bailey has organized feeding campaigns while cooking at his restaurant and also doing caterings and private cooking, including for some of the pro athletes living nearby in Colleyville or Southlake.
He chased around grocery shopping with Guy Fieri on "Guy's Grocery Games," and was featured on "Food Paradise." He also was honored as a distingushed alumnus of his university, Ball State in Ohio.
His restaurant is a rarity: a soul food restaurant in a predominantly Anglo community, although it's convenient to Fort Worth and Irving.
It caught on early for his "Thanksgiving 365," turkey with a waffle made of cornbread dressing.
He's introduced some customers to jerk turkey legs, rib tips or smothered smoked pork chops.
His customers are 70%-80% Anglo, he said: "I'll take everybody's money."
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