Corinne’s Place: famous soul-food in Camden

By on June 24, 2022 0

When Corinne Bradley-Powers heard the news earlier this year from friends who texted her congratulations, it wasn’t clear what name they mentioned.

“I know Jacques Bradley— he’s my grandfather,” says the 76-year-old, “but James Beard, I didn’t know him. People were like, ‘You don’t know? It’s the Oscar for food! So now I know.

The people of Camden certainly know Corinne’s Place, the front restaurant Bradley-Powers opened in 1989. That year it was recognized by the James Beard Foundation (JBF) as one of America’s Classics. Known for its prestigious national awards for chefs, restaurants and hospitality professionals, the JBF created the category in 1998 to honor “food that reflects the character of its community”.

Craig LaBan, food critic of the Philadelphia plaintiff, has long been a fan of Corinne’s Place. Co-chair of the Beard Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic Committee, he calls her “the queen of soul food” and calls her fried chicken “unforgettable.” At Corinne’s Place, customers feast on soul food classics that Bradley-Powers has perfected, from fried chicken and fried fish to Cajun turkey wings, salmon croquettes and pork trotters. On Sundays, they line up for its weekly buffet with its rotating menu. “Towns like Camden aren’t often recognized by the James Beard Awards,” observes LaBan. “I have always seen Corinne as a beacon of hope. This is an excellent restaurant that does everything to the highest standard.

There is a reason for this. “I’m in competition with myself,” says the chef/owner. “I always find ways to make my dishes even better.”

Improving things was a goal before Bradley-Powers tied on a chef’s apron. “I’m always trying to change the world,” she says, “so I got a sociology degree at Rutgers and became a social worker for the Camden County Youth Department. I counseled children who had taken drugs and committed all kinds of crimes.

“I had an impact on a lot of people,” she adds. “Years later, when I opened the restaurant, I mentored the young people who arrived, I gave them jobs. Many of them do not have the love that we are used to. so was my ministry, something I was born to do.

“Although food is my passion, helping these children is also my passion. I would say that 95% of the children who started working at Corinne when they were 13, 14, are now doctors, lawyers, social workers. So, that in itself is gratifying.

You feel the backbone of what comes next: “And people say nothing good comes out of Camden. I like to think differently. These kids weren’t supposed to make it. But they did.

Count Governor Phil Murphy among Corinne’s fans. After eating there several times, he called it “the best soul food in South Jersey”. He called to congratulate her after she won the Beard Award.

In the heat of a July summer, the governor entered. She served him her baked chicken and macaroni. “He was so nice and grateful,” she said. Bonus points? As a true connoisseur of soul food, he asked for hot sauce.

Another visitor once had a very familiar handsome face, although he had never been seen in town before. Bradley-Powers was in Florida; his mother, Fannie Mae Anderson, ran the show.

Mother called daughter. “We think Danny Glover is here,” she whispered into the phone.

“You’re kidding me,” Bradley-Powers replied.

It wasn’t a joke. The actor was shooting a movie in Philadelphia and was told that the best soul food in Philadelphia was across the river. He returned a second and third time, for which Bradley-Powers was present. By then, the staff knew to bring her their favorites: baked chicken and Cajun turkey wings.

The recipes that power Corinne’s Place date back to the days she spent in her home kitchen, watching and later helping her mother. Food built community and also united women in the family. Bradley-Powers’ father died when she was about a year and a half old and her mother was pregnant with her younger sister. In the kitchen, activity peaked on Saturdays and Sundays, when they prepared food for friends, family and congregants at their Pentecostal church in Camden.

“She always had three meats: pork, poultry and beef,” recalls the chef. “There was cabbage, cabbage, green beans. Always fresh, never frozen. The aromas ! Oh, my God, it was like heaven.

You can find these tastes at Corinne’s Place. The Beard Prize has attracted new customers, as you can imagine. “At first we were mobbed,” she says. All guests receive the same warm welcome from staff (including a niece, nephew and, occasionally, granddaughter) and the chef’s husband, Jerry Powers, whose carpentry skills helped build the place.

“We had a few people from New York,” says Bradley-Powers. “But most of the people who come are from out of town. Camden didn’t keep me in business. People from Delaware and Philadelphia come like it’s just around the corner. Since I started in 1989, I have never paid for advertising. I am truly blessed. It all comes from “Tell A Friend”.

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