“It’s a validation of my business and how hard we have worked as a family to build this business over two generations.” (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)


Greg Dulan stands poised to win this award for legacy and community. 

Dulan’s is a name synonymous with soul food here in South Los Angeles.

For 50 years, the family-operated soul food brand has brought the community down home cuisine. Today, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Dulan’s Catering and the Dulanville Food Truck continue the legacy with Greg Dulan at the helm. So, it’s no surprise that he stands nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur.

“I am a finalist for the James Beard Restaurateur Award,” said Dulan. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment.”

Dulan continued, “It would validate the business training that I received as a student at the Howard University School of Business.

“It’s a validation of my business and how hard we have worked as a family to build this business over two generations.”

Dulan shared that this is indeed his second nomination as he was a semifinalist last year.

“It’s a validation of my business and how hard we have worked as a family to build this business over two generations.” (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“I thought it was a mistake, I was a semifinalist two years in a row,” said Dulan. “Then, a couple of months later, they sent me something saying that I’m a James Beard finalist.”

The “Oscars” of the food and restaurant industry, the James Beard Awards recognize and celebrate the best in the culinary and food industries. The awards also recognize the “demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.” Winners and nominees are selected from entries.

“It’s not just me,” said Dulan as he and his brother, Terry, run the day-to-day operations and continue their parents’ legacy.

Adolf and Mary Dulan started with Hamburger City in the 1970s, which paved the way to another well-known restaurant, Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in Marina del Rey in the mid 1980s and eventually Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in the late 1990s.

“Taking all of that into consideration, and how we started with a little hamburger stand to being potentially named the most outstanding restaurateur by the James Beard Foundation—that’s a long way.

“That feels pretty good.”

It’s no surprise, Dulan’s is established brand within the South Los Angeles community. Arguably one of the prototypes for soul food dining on the West Coast, Dulan’s is a part of L.A. history. When asked what makes for good soul food, Dulan shared some simple truths.

“Good soul food has to be well seasoned,” said Dulan “And, I believe the basis, for a good soul food restaurant, something that distinguishes one from another, is the flavor of the gravy.”

On top of good seasoning and good gravy, Dulan shared good soul food cuts no corners. He emphasized the use of fresh ingredients, no substitutes and food being prepared by hand.

“Your greens are chopped by hand, cornbread made from scratch, a lot of good soul food is scratch cooking,” said Dulan, and “using old recipes that have been handed down.”
Dulan has committed the brand to serving the community and being an example to others. He greatly believes in giving back to the community with Dulan’s being employers since Hamburger City in the 1970s.

“We’ve always been a business that offers first opportunities and second chances,” said Dulan. “In the sense that we hire folks for their first job and often, a lot of our employees are looking for a second chance in life as they transition from a [correctional facility].”

Many businesses and restaurants closed nationwide due to the COVID pandemic but, Dulan’s was one of many that managed to survive. They were chosen by World Central Kitchen to supply food during the pandemic throughout Los Angeles. Dulan’s also fed senior citizens with help from City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the L.A. Mayor’s Senior Meal Program.

Dulan believes what goes into being a good restaurateur is building off your brand. The Dulanville Food Truck and Dulan’s Catering are part of that growth. Dulan also opened Hotville Chicken along with partner Kim Prince, bringing the Nashville hot chicken concept to South Los Angeles.

Winning a James Beard Award would mean a lot to Dulan, his family and legacy but he sees and even bigger picture. Dulan shared winning the award would be a sign to the community. If he were to win, he hopes that would even further encourage future chefs, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs.

“Our community is not really known for positive things all the time,” said Dulan. “Typically, when people talk about South Los Angeles, it’s negative.

“And so, to win this award for the community would show there are positive things happening in South Los Angeles. There are businesses that have operated on a long-term basis that are successful, that are employing people.

“It would show all the other small restaurants that we can do it too with perseverance and hard work. That we can rise to the level that we can actually receive a James Beard Award—even if we started with a little hamburger stand.”

He continued, “It would give me a sense of pride to be able to bring this to the Crenshaw District and all my customers who have supported the Dulan’s brand over the years.

“And it would be a good example for my children, Brett and Alexis, for them to be proud of with me.”

Nominees for the James Beard Foundation Media Awards will be announced live in New York City on April 26. Tickets for the 32nd annual James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards in Chicago are now on sale.  The awards will be livestreamed on Eater on Monday, June 5, at 5:30 p.m. CT. For more information, visit www.jamesbeard.org.