What's Cooking Delco?

"My mom always said that since the age of three I preferred the cooking channel over cartoons. My grandfather, Alfred Lee, Jr., was a master chef and baker. He used to feed the less fortunate, he cooked for all of our family gatherings, and he helped introduce me to the culinary world. I fell in love with baking first. It started with a cookie recipe that my grandfather had given me. My mom was working at WDAS-FM radio station at the time, and at one point she brought some of my cookies in to work with her. They were such a hit that from that day on I was getting orders. I was 13 years old and selling cookies at WDAS. This was just the beginning.

Starting around 2005 I started selling food at fairs and festivals in the Tri-State area. My husband and daughter were working right along with me. We developed a pretty big following. People would come up to me and say, "After the summer ends we can't find you anymore. We need a location." So I started making dinners out of my house in Folcroft. I was still working full-time at the Philadelphia airport, but when I was home I was cooking. The customers were spreading the word, because I was selling food to people from all different parts of Delaware County. I eventually started renting a kitchen at a bar and grill in Philadelphia, so from 2014-2016 I was operating from that location. And after that I moved to a new location in Chester.

My experience in and around Philly made me realize that there was a definite demand for my food. I was getting tired of being at other people's locations. If something happened, like a water main broke, or anything else that would affect the availability of the kitchen - that affected me. I didn't want to be under the mercy of anyone else. I realized that if I was going to be paying rent to cook somewhere, I might as well get my own spot and put out the money to invest in me, and have my own business. My husband and daughter were fully on board.

I was a little nervous because this was something I had never done before, but I knew I had a great customer base in the area. We decided on Glenolden because I was still working at the airport at night, so it was close to both the airport and my house. Our grand opening was November 15th, 2019 –and it was packed. People I had previously served in Philadelphia, Chester, and the airport were all there, right alongside my family. People literally travelled from Jersey and Delaware – I could not believe the support we received.

There's a lot to love about what I do. I love being able to hire people from the community - I've had 6 community employees so far. And I also love being able to give people a taste of home. Sometimes people will say to me, "This reminds me of my grandmother who is no longer with me," or "My aunt used to make this!" Those are the biggest compliments for me, because I really feel like I'm giving them a piece of my soul." -Chef Shug (Shugar Shack Soul Food 2)