Living with her grandmother, who was a private chef and worked at Georgia Southern University, during her formative years, Sandra Rogers developed a love of cooking, different flavors and creating something that would bring people comfort. Witnessing her grandmother cook for their community, providing the food for weddings as well as cooking meals for families who recently lost a loved one, Ms. Rogers knew from an early age that she wanted to be a chef. After earning her GED, she worked in administration for a time until she won New Jersey’s State Parable in 2010, which spurred her to make her dreams of being a chef a reality. Ms. Rogers joined the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and subsequently earned a diploma in the culinary arts.
In 2016, Ms. Rogers established Sandi’s SoulBites alongside her five adult children. Specializing in Southern soul food, she ran the business as a catering company for its first three years, during which time they provided support to a local restaurant. Sandi’s SoulBites became a restaurant proper with a permanent location in 2019, just six months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While she did have to close temporarily, she has worked to reinvent how the restaurant operates and her emphasis on keeping a spotless kitchen has enabled them to safely reopen. They have recently acquired a new, larger building for Sandi’s SoulBites, which they are in the process of renovating with the tentative plan being to move the restaurant to the new location in 2023.
Defining “soul food” as “food that feeds the soul,” Ms. Rogers considers any food that is made with love and soul to be soul food, regardless of where it originates from. As she continues to grow as a professional, learning from her fellow chefs and community members, she has also sought additional business and business management certifications to help her gain the necessary knowledge to successfully run a business, as Sandi’s SoulBites is the first restaurant that she and her family have had a hands-on role in running. Gaining skills in managing employees and navigating the various front and back of house needs, Ms. Rogers is currently in the process of pursuing and associate degree in business administration.
Inspired by her own perseverance and her strength to believe in herself when others didn’t, Ms. Rogers has made a name for herself as a female business owner in the hospitality industry. In addition to her realist attitude and her emphasis on honesty, she always strives to meet other chefs in the industry as friends and colleagues, not competition. She considers it important to stay in her own lane and focus on what she specializes in. Determined to be her own chef and carve out a space for herself in the culinary industry, Ms. Rogers emphasizes that her goal is to serve each diner who enters their restaurant with loving soul. She wants Sandi’s SoulBites to be a place where people can come and relax and have good, home-style comfort food.
In order to keep abreast of developments in her field, Ms. Rogers maintains professional affiliation with both the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Restaurant Association. Furthermore, she is finalizing the preparations to launch an organization called Shef, which will be a resource for women in the culinary industry who are just getting started, are looking for small grants or loans, or need other forms of support. Through the excellence of Ms. Rogers and her team, Sandi’s SoulBites was named New Jersey’s Choice Restaurant for 2021 for Southern soul food and has also received New Jersey’s Choice Award for Best Southern Soul Food in the North and been recognized among New Jersey’s 30 Best New Restaurants. She feels incredibly gratified to have received such notable recognitions in the short amount of time that Sandi’s SoulBites has been open.