New restaurant is a little piece of heaven for owners

Published 6:07 pm Saturday, April 5, 2008

NATCHEZ — From a small kitchen on Fourth Street, Alisha Wilson is realizing the goal of a lifetime one plate at a time.

Wilson said for the past 15 years she had given serious thought and consideration to opening her own restaurant.

After years of toil and a few set backs Soul Heaven was born.

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Wilson’s first venture into the restaurant business was when she built a kitchen on wheels to take to the prison construction site on U.S. 84.

“We called it the chuck wagon,” she said.

Sadly Wilson said much of the lunch rush she had hoped for just wasn’t there.

“It was hard,” she said. “But it just wasn’t working.”

Undeterred, Wilson and her partner Glenn Jolla built a kitchen into the back of her Suburban and she tried to sell food in various spots around town.

In addition Wilson and Jolla took the chuck wagon to local event and sold food whenever possible.

“It was my way to make extra money,” she said.

By working for several years in restaurants all over Natchez, Wilson has paid her dues and learned the skills that she uses today.

But her love of cooking came long before she was working in kitchens.

“My mother told me ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ so I had to learn to cook,” she said.

After the ill-fated chuck wagon and months of not making enough money at local events Wilson began to look for the building that would house her dream restaurant.

After finding the building at 12 Fourth St., she negotiated with the owner for a lease.

Still short on cash though Wilson sought devine intervention.

“I said a prayer and called a friend the next day,” she said.

Her friend lent her $2,500 and with the money she received from her tax return she opened Soul Heaven on March 10.

But in the two months before the restaurant opened Wilson and Jolla spent hours cleaning and redecorating.

The inside of the restaurant, decorated by Wilson’s specifications, is a quaint and calming space.

The tables and chairs are also noticeably unique.

“Tables and chairs were an arm and a leg,” she said. “So we bought all the wood and Glenn made them for us.”

And a friend of Wilson’s donated the marble that now acts as tabletops for the restaurant.

After getting the dining area redecorated Wilson then had to clean the kitchen.

Wilson said cleaning the stove alone took two weeks.

And the stove where Wilson does her work is a giant, ancient machine.

With huge black doors and chrome lettering it’s actually reminiscent of a Cadillac from the 1950s.

“That’s where we do most of our work,” she said.

And the work that Wilson does has yielded a dizzying menu.

From fish to fries Wilson is serving virtually every known dish in the south.

“This isn’t work for me,” she said. “This is a hobby, it’s fun.”

Soul Heaven will have a grand opening celebration at 6 p.m. April 16.