Meet Shirlene Ingraham, A Restaurant Owner And Also A Chick-fil-A Franchisee Who’s Bringing Soul Food To This International Airport

Sixty-one-year-old Shirlene Ingraham continues to share delicious foods across Miami, FL.

At the age of 7, Ingraham’s love for cooking began while she worked for her family’s business, the Miami Herald reports. Her parents, Jessie and Demas Jackson, were the proud owners of Jackson Soul Food. The first location was built in 1946 and was located in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

When she became a young adult, Ingraham first pursed a career in criminology. However, she was not fulfilled when she moved back home to secure a job post.

“My parents had a restaurant in Overtown since 1946. I went off to college in Gainesville at Santa Fe College to study criminology and then came back home,” Ingraham told the Miami Herald. “I started working in the Miami Police Department. One day I decided I didn’t want to work in law enforcement anymore.”

Ingraham would then transition into the restaurant sector. As a child working at Jackson Soul Food, she had taken food orders while standing on a crate and later moved to cooking in the kitchen. When she returned to the business, she took on greater responsibility running it and keeping it going, she says. In 2015, Ingraham would expand the family business, opening a second Jackson Soul Food location in Opa-locka.

She recalls various learning curves, having never pursued formal business education.

“After I took over the business, there were new responsibilities like doing the payroll and paying government taxes, that I had to learn. I learned from a lot of mistakes I made,” Ingraham told the Miami Herald. “Since I never went to school for those things, I learned through experience. As a restaurant owner, you’re going to go through some things. You just have to stay strong and have plenty of faith because that’s what kept me going during challenging times. And it’s not always what it appears. You really have to just want it, because it took me this long just to get to the second location. You really have to have your heart in it. That suited me ‘cause I’m hands on.”

You can find Ingraham at 4 a.m. preparing biscuits at Jackson Soul Food II in Opa-locka. The restaurant, which offers menu items such as shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and fried catfish, is not only attracting the local community but it has captured the attention of President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and artists including Ray J.

Now, the popular soul food spot has reached the Miami International Airport (MIA), which is one of the fastest-growing airports in the U.S. and served 26.2 million passengers during the first half of 2023, Miami Today News mentions. Passengers will be able to visit the restaurant inside concourses D and E.

What’s more, Ingraham is also a Chick-fil-A franchisee so menu items from the popular fast food chain will also be featured at the airport location.

“Millions of travelers from all over the world can now enjoy Jackson’s popular soul food and get another taste of what our diverse community has to offer,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement, per The Miami Times. “Being able to celebrate their ribbon-cutting during Black History Month makes this opening even more special.”

Ingraham commented, “My team and I are so glad to bring the same family-oriented atmosphere and home-made food to the airport that we offer our guests at our Overtown and Opa-locka locations. The opening of our MIA location, along with the Chick-fil-A location, mark an important milestone in my life.”


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