Cover Story: The King's Kitchen

Published: May. 29, 2009 at 10:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Attacking the problem of hunger in Charlotte in a way that's never been tried before.  In this recession so many of our neighbors are struggling to pay their bills, to keep their homes, and keep a roof over their heads.

More than 5-thousand in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area are homeless.. and that number is growing.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson discovered a group with a unique approach to tackling this problem head on.

It's the brainchild of one of Charlotte's finest chefs and restaurateurs and there are a lot of heavy-hitters involved.

The idea-- open up a restaurant, but it's not going to make money.. at least not in the traditional sense.. and that's the point.

"I want to be a pitching wedge from the center of this intersection here..."

He's been scouting out locations for a year and a half.  Famed chef Jim Noble and his wife Karen wants to be within a block of the Square in uptown.. to launch a restaurant they're calling " The King's Kitchen."

But it'll be unlike any other restaurant Noble's opened in his 26 years in the business.

On the scale of his popular Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen in South Park.. what will be different.. in The King's Kitchen.. the wait staff will consist of the unemployed, troubled youth and graduates of rehab programs.

And the money.. all the profits will go to feed the homeless in Charlotte.

"We're commissioned to help take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. As a Christian believer that's part of my marching orders," says Noble.  "We're just trying to do that."

The restaurant.. they've only got a website right now.. will be open to the public.

With plans to serve local.. healthy.. comfort food at a reasonable price.

But what's bowled over Noble and his wife is how the Charlotte community's embraced the concept.

"This town Charlotte is such a benevolent city. I've not seen any place like this before. And people want to help. They just don't know exactly how to help," he says.

Kim Marks.. one of the owners of a Charlotte architecture and interior design firm.. A I Group wanted to help.  But in this recession.. trying to hold down costs.. they're giving in a different way.

It's a trend the Nobles are seeking.. offering services gratis.

"Everybody has time," says Marks.  "Not everybody has the check.. the dollar to write to give. We're all willing to give more and more time."

As the recession drags on, the number of people who fall into the ranks of the needy swell.

Michael Smith of Center City Partners says Charlotte's had a bit of an awakening to the plight of the homeless and those less fortunate.

"The King's Kitchen" fulfills a dual mission.

"This is so Charlotte," says Smith. "For us to find a way through commerce to create some dedicated funding to help the homeless."

Says Karen Noble, "We feel like this will inspire other businesses and other people to do the same thing with what they arelady know how to do. And they'll give out of that.. it'll just be a ripple effect."

Other cities have tried similar things.. but not to this scale and in such a visible location in the Center City.

But that's what the Nobles want.. a spot that'll be seen.. with hopes this will encourage others.

They haven't settled on a location yet, but it's going to be near the Square and they hope to sign a lease soon.

Many of the city's movers and shakers are on board.  And there's a benefit Thursday, June 4, 2009 at Noble's Restaurant in SouthPark.

Panthers players.. current and some former will be serving.

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