Meet The James Beard-Nominated Chef Serving Exceptional Pan-Fried Chicken In Harlem For Almost 50 years

January 6, 2024

James Beard-nominated chef Charles Gabriel, hailing from a sharecropping family in North Carolina, has dedicated almost 50 years to serving the Harlem community.

Gabriel’s culinary journey began in his mother’s kitchen, where he learned the art of cooking while working in the fields during the day.

At 17, Gabriel moved to New York City, starting his career at Copeland’s in Hamilton Heights. Following the closure of the restaurant in 2007 due to gentrification, Gabriel ventured out on his own, initially cooking from his Harlem apartment.

Seizing an opportunity to purchase a food truck for $25 per week, he successfully operated it for five years, paving the way for his first brick-and-mortar establishment, Charles Pan Fried Chicken, on 8th Avenue in Harlem.

The restaurant’s menu boasts a variety of dishes, including pulled pork, barbecue smoke rubs, smothered turkey legs, and the renowned pan-fried chicken.

Harlem World Magazine, Food editor Lil Nickeson stated, “I had the distinct pleasure of working with and for Chef Charles Gabriel from 2016 to 2021, through the lean years after the death of his dearly loved wife Cookie. During the pandemic shutdown, NYC World Central Kitchen paid the restaurant to serve 300 meals daily to Drew Hamilton Housing Development residents 6 days a week. At the same time, he continued to work endlessly 7 days a week to keep his regular customers fed with his comfort food from 12 noon to 10 pm with his take-out food. I quietly wondered how long would he’d be able to keep working at this pace; no extended family members were part of his daily operations. When Chef Quie Slobert came on the scene in 2021 and started working with Charles, I knew the right person came into his operations at the right time to keep Charles’ legacy alive and help it thrive. Four locations and counting; no stopping them now!”

Related: Read more about another of Harlem’s award-winning chefs like Charles Gabriel.

With the support of Chef and Chief Operating Officer Quie Slobert, Gabriel expanded to four restaurants, experiencing ongoing success and a growing fan base.

“… the experience (has been) “beautiful” and “unbelievable.”

Reflecting on his journey, Gabriel expressed gratitude for the inspiring people who have visited his restaurants over the years, describing the experience as “beautiful” and “unbelievable.”

Photo credit: Rudy Collins.

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