( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) The Columbia, SC Chef Gives Back To Local Families With Produce Giveaway
ENSPIRE Contributor: Adam Cetorelli
With the winter holiday season in full swing and a pandemic testing each of us as we grapple with distanced celebrations that just aren’t the same, it’s more important than ever to reflect on who we want to be for the people around us. Personally, I strive to be someone who is compassionate, community-minded, and constantly growing, which is why I was excited to hear Chef Lazarius “Ken” Walker’s story earlier this month.
Walker is an accomplished chef and restaurateur who’s no stranger to the spotlight. In 2016, he won Thomas English Muffins’ National Food Truck Competition. In 2019, he was a contestant on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games and was awarded the Guinness World Records’ title of “Most Expensive Crab Cake” for his platinum crab cake, priced at $310. And over the course of his budding career, Chef Walker has grown his food truck operation into a brick-and-mortar restaurant with The Twist opening in Columbia, South Carolina four years ago.
This story of growth is inspiring on its own, but it got even more so when Chef Walker decided to give back to his Columbia, SC community, which has supported his growth since the start of his food truck days. On November 21, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Walker partnered with local farmers to provide fresh vegetables to South Carolinians who are struggling in the wake of a pandemic that has left many jobless.
Before COVID-19, The Twist would have lines out the door on any given weekend shift. On November 21, the line went out the door again, although this time for locals to take out food for free. Read my interview with Chef Walker below on his business, achievements, and philanthropy during these uniquely difficult times.
What’s the story behind your restaurant, The Twist? Why did you choose this name?
The Twist came about after my Food Cart (Kens All-Star Cart) that I owned and operated from 2012-2016. My slogan was “Food With a Twist.” I just took part of that and came up with The Twist. The restaurant came about after winning a National Food Truck Competition in 2016 held by Thomas English Muffins.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, you partnered with local farmers to collect over 300 pounds of produce for Columbia, SC families. What inspired you to give back to the community this holiday season?
I love giving back to the community any chance that I get. Columbia, SC has a lot of great talent that goes overlooked, especially black farmers. I felt that, while giving back this year, I also wanted to highlight a great business in the community as well. I know with local farmers all of the produce was going to be in season and natural.
How did the produce distribution go? Did you give away all 300 pounds? How many people came to pick up the fruits and vegetables?
The produce giveaway went great! We ended up running out of food in less than 30 minutes. We had a line wrapped around the plaza an hour before we started handing out anything. We counted around 91 people.
You’ve earned quite a few awards for your business. What led you to create the Guinness World Records’ Most Expensive Crab Cake? How come it’s so expensive ($310!)? Was this a specialty/novelty item or can customers actually purchase the crab cake from The Twist?
The Guinness World Record came about when I felt like I could do better than my National Food Title. We are known for our crab cakes so I wanted to do a play on that. It’s really worth $310 lol. We have black truffles from Italy, two different types of crab meat, platinum wrap and platinum dust, that goes into our butter sauce. We do sell about 9-10 a year. It took me exactly one year from applying to actually receive the award.
As we leave such a difficult year behind us, what are you looking forward to in 2021?
2021 I’m looking forward to expanding my culinary talents further and pushing my AR app (Metroyou) out more.
If you are in the Columbia, SC area, click here to view The Twist’s menu and order some take out from this community-minded small business!