Ace’s Soul Food officially turns four years old this month, but the Hahnville eatery has historical roots that are much deeper in St. Charles Parish.
Nashea Howard currently owns the restaurant.
“Before it was Ace’s Soul Food it was Daddy’s Friend Chicken,” Howard said. “Ralph Hymel built it up in 2007 and my mom Grail Howard eventually took it over and later renamed it. She passed it down to myself. She helps me … she built the name and built everything. Everything that I know is because of my mom. My dad helps out too.”
Nashea said that while her exposure to cooking started at a young age, her love for cooking did not.
“It’s kind of funny,” she said. “My mom cooked my whole entire life. She used to cook behind the courthouse and then moved to Daddy’s Fried Chicken. My grandmother Alberta Scott would cook too. She would travel to different bars and places to cook. I used to think I would never cook … I had no interest in it, but I was there … I guess I picked up some skills being around them for so long.”
After getting laid off during the height of the COVID pandemic, Nashea said she found herself in the restaurant’s kitchen more and more with her mother.
“Being hands on and watching everything … I just got more interested,” Nashea said. “I never really cooked. I mean I would cook for my family at home, but I had never cooked for the public. My mom was always the mastermind in cooking. In November of 2020 she got cancer, and I had to learn as much as I could learn … that’s when I started really being part of the business as far as cooking. Being there without a job … it gave me enough time to actually learn everything I needed to know. For some reason I just became fascinated with wanting to cook. I wanted to be in the kitchen with her.”
Nashea said she absorbed as much as she could from her mother and started learning all of the different recipes Grail used in the kitchen.
“I didn’t know if she would be here very long, so I really had to focus,” Nashea said. “She was out from 2020-2022 and I did it by myself. If COVID hadn’t happened I would probably still be working and just checking in on the business here and there.”
Now the owner of Ace’s, Nashea had to face another hurdle other than COVID and her mother’s illness – Hurricane Ida.
“My building was destroyed,” she said. “I was like, ‘How can I fix this?’”
In September 2021 Nashea purchased a food truck to help keep her in business until her building was back up and running.
“My dad John Howard is very handy, and he was able to fix up the building enough so I could get back in the building,” she said adding that her food truck is now used for private catering. “I grew up here in Hahnville and I’m still here. Ace’s Soul Food … I feel this is where I’m supposed to be. I feel like this is where I was going to be no matter what route or path I was going to take. I took different paths just to be right back here and I feel blessed. I feel like this is where God wants me at. I feel at place.”