We were lucky to catch up with David Thomas recently and have shared our conversation below.
David, appreciate you joining us today. What’s something crazy on unexpected that’s happened to you or your business
By far, the craziest story I have to offer regarding business here at Savorite is our feature on HBO’s hard knocks Dallas Cowboys, this season. Talk about a surreal experience, that almost didn’t happen lol.
Not to sound arrogant or cocky, but during a now 4 year stint in Plano we’ve fed our fair share of celebrities/athletes/entertainers. All have been organic, no paid appearances. That’s truly the thing I love about how this appearance on HBO came to light. Unbeknownst to me, JaQuan Hardy, running back of the Dallas Cowboys, had been a customer of Savorite Southern Cuisine via an online food app. There may have been a time or two where he called in to follow up on an order he had placed via the app with some special instructions. My staff and I, like to go above and beyond, especially on the food app orders, in an attempt to get the customer to deal with us direct. So with no knowledge of who was actually ordering on the other line, we we went to work preparing his orders for delivery with the proper attention to detail & care. It reached a point where we knew his orders by name, down to the call in add-ons, etc. Come to find out, he had even popped his head in on occasion or two to come pick his order up.
Our business hours changed during the pandemic. Instead of regular operating hours of 11a – 9pm, moving forward we’re now open from 4p – 9pm. This had been the case since the summer of 2020.
So one hot summer morning in August of 2021, I received a phone call from a young lady claiming to be from HBO films. She explained that she was apart of the upcoming filming of the Dallas Cowboys hard knocks season on HBO and some players had mentioned my place as a destination with a possibility to film. Now I’ve been approached by talent agencies, “tv” personalities, scouts, etc before in the past with the bulk of it amounting to nothing. So to say I was the least bit moved by the initial phone call would be an understatement. She elaborated further that the players would be ending their morning session soon and wanted to know what time they could head to the restaurant to get setup. I explained to her, in an attempt to blow her off (smh), that we didn’t open 4pm so unfortunately I’d have to pass on the “opportunity”. Unexpectedly, she replied “wait, actually that may work better, so we’re not so rushed.” She said she wanted to touch base with the players first and she’d give me a call back. The call ended, and I kid you not I pulled the covers back over my head thinking I’d never hear from her again. Maybe an hour passes, and my phone rings again. I’d went back to sleep, thankfully she left a voicemail confirming that the players could do this afternoon. I called her back once I had awaken from my slumber. Again, to my own admittance I did not move as hastily as I should have, in hindsight. Once on the phone with her, we began coordinating schedules. The camera crew needed to get in a little earlier to setup, with the players arriving around 4pm. Even with these phone calls, I still was not 100% convinced it was legit. Once we had all the particulars ironed out, what convinced me the most was the HBO & NFL waivers, that my staff and I had to sign. I’m 100% sure my face at the time read, “oh, this is legit!” I immediately filled out the required paperwork and got to the restaurant in a flash, to ensure we were TV ready. I notified staff of our special guest(s) arriving today, on my commute. My now contact at HBO was to call back with a head count of players. My mind immediately went to a dining room full of hungry NFL players, ‘Oh sh!t”. I started prepping right away, as staff continued to show up. You might say we over prepared lol. At the time I was not certain how many players were going to work through the door. I just wanted to ensure we could/would feed them…ALL!
Camera crew starts to show up, and I’m trying to maintain my cool. We’re ready, let’s do this. Exciting is an understatement… “there is a HBO film crew in MY restaurant!!! WHAT is happening!!!”
You got to understand some things about me, I’m an underdog. I’ve from East Cleveland, OH. I’ve been counted out my whole life. My wife & I moved here in 2014, we have 2 boys 6 and 9. I opened this restaurant in 2018. You could not have told me in 2021, that same restaurant would be featured on HBO in the middle of pandemic. I would’ve called BS. Listen, its not that I don’t think the food I prepare is top notch and deserving of such an honor. Just didnt think it was in the cards. In the DFW, there are countless options to chose from. It was nothing short of a blessing to be handpicked, chosen if you will. There are times along this journey, you are faced with self-doubt, questioning if what you’re really doing is amounting to anything, really. The recognition can be reassuring. Why not us, we’re supposed to be here. This is earned, not given. The work has been put in. This was just the culmination of all the commitment and dedication. Only difference that day was a camera crew.
I know its cliche but appears to be true, stay committed to what you believe, somebody somewhere is telling someone how good you are!
At this point, I’m chatting up the camera crew waiting on the players to arrive. Still with no knowledge of who or how many. I shared a Cleveland connection with one of the guys on the filming crew. As it turns out, he also worked on the set of ‘Black Panther’. My kids are avid superhero fans, so that was definitely a cool experience to share with them. Around 4pm, the players start rolling in and I spy a familiar face in JaQuan Hardy. Along side him is Anthony Hines. To bring this story full circle, come to find out Hardy is also from the east side of Cleveland and Hines is a hometown hero having grown up right here in Plano. I could not have made this stuff up. With a shocking look, Hardy & I greet each other. Again, my staff & I had spoke to & met this man, many times before with no idea of him being a professional athlete. So to find out he was the one behind this was very, very humbling. Now don’t get me wrong, it’d be one thing if we knew he was a professional athlete and buttered up to him for his every beckon call. I mean well we kinda did, didn’t we lol. There was no ulterior motive though. I nor my staff went above and beyond because we potentially knew it would land us on HBO. It was just an organic experience from 2 midwest kids, who happened to link up in “Big D.” Kind of like, one hand washes the other.
With the athletes now here, I stepped back into the kitchen and let the professionals do their thing. I personally opted against a cameo, but I did encourage my staff, wife & kids to grab some camera time. They were going to film my boys, but my oldest was too ‘camera shy’ to participate. Kids, smh. Instead he chose to lay low & play Nintendo switch. It’s not everyday that HBO comes knocking. It was enough for me to be able to share this experience with my staff & family.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Well my name is David Thomas, and I’m the owner-operator of Savorite Southern Cuisine. A small mom & pop soul food restaurant, here in Plano, TX. We opened our doors for business in 2018 and have been beyond blessed to keep them open til this day. Faced with a pandemic, we had to make some adjustments but we’re still here by the grace of God. We offer everything from fried chicken, to smothered pork chops, candied yams, macaroni & cheese, collard greens, etc. I think being in Plano, and being able to serve northern dfw has helped. I’ve been here 8 yrs and learned early on I’d have to travel to south Dallas if I wanted to satisfy my soul palate. So that was definitely a need I wanted to address, upon deciding on a home for Savorite. I’ve worked in kitchens off & on since I was 15 years old. I’ve owned & operated 2 restaurants back home in Cleveland, with this being my first here in Texas. I get questioned all the time, what does a city boy from the north know about “soul food”. Soul food is not region specific. Sure some regions do it better than others, depending on where you’re at. Soul food for me is that meal that warms your insides, comforts your soul, its memorable. Maybe have you even do a lil’ dance in your seat. Soul food is also probably the most critiqued cuisine there is. “Is your peach cobbler going to taste like my granny’s?” “Do y’all use pork in your greens?” “Can I see what your Mac & Cheese look like?” These are just some of the questions we field on a daily basis. Now, if you’ve never invited me over or brought me some of your granny’s peach cobbler, how exactly would I/we know if ours is going to taste like hers? Lol. I’ve grown to enjoy the interactions… especially the ones where we turn non believers into believers. Thats the real currency for me.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
The biggest pivot thus far has been the move to DFW. For me, I was already doing what I’m doing here back home in Cleveland. The weather and desire for more for my family and myself, landed us here. As mentioned before, I owned & operated 2 restaurants back home in Cleveland. The first was a partnership with a mom & pop soul food restaurant. I joined to expand locations, but more importantly to learn the ins & outs of the restaurant industry from an owners perspective, not just an employee anymore. It could be looked at college if you will, nothing short of an investment into myself & (their business). Second restaurant I opened was a full service sports lounge, Trifecta’s. This was my baby! My creation, something I had been working on & dreaming of since the early 2000s. It felt amazing to take something from a sheet of paper to a full fledge operating functioning restaurant. It was short lived, 2010-2012. A pivot did take place in 2011/2012 though. Prior to Trifecta’s closing, I enrolled into the local community college who had just unveiled a new hospitality center, to purse a degree in culinary arts & restaurant/hospitality management. Another pivotal investment into myself. Thank God I enrolled prior to my restaurant closing because I initially was crushed by how things had unfolded with the closing. Those classes and schooling kept me going. See I had originally enrolled with the hopes of obtaining just the culinary degree. I wanted to be sharper in the kitchen. Prior to Trifecta’s, the majority of roles I fulfilled were more front of the house. Balance, with consistency is what I was after. The real life, hands on experience I was receiving at night at Trifectas made the test/exams a lot less stressful in the AM at school.
Can you talk to us about your experience with buying businesses?
Yes and no, the first business/restaurant I owned was purchased through a partnership. I invested because I was eager to learn about the restaurant business and felt this was the best way at the time. The capital I invested went towards the lease and buildout of a second location of a mom/pop soul food restaurant that had been around since the early 80s. It was a no brainer for me. The gentleman I was partnering with was the son of the restaurant owner. He himself had prior restaurant experience having owned & operated multiple restaurants & bars throughout the east side of Cleveland. A mutual acquaintance arranged for us to meet and from that day forward, he was the mentor & I was the mentee. There was already one location established, and I was just like a sponge, there to soak up every bit of knowledge I could. Sure I wanted to help grow the business and leave a lasting impact. Truth be told, I wanted to learn everything I could as fast as I could so I could operate my own establishment and run things how I saw fit. With an established brand that had been around since the 80s, there was little to no say so. To a certain extent, rightfully so. I was the new kid on the block and just because I invested my money did not mean I got to side step paying my dues. To all the budding entrepreneurs out there, there are some dues that can’t be paid with a check book. There will be times along your journey where you will have to roll up your sleeves and put the work in your self.
- Website: www.savoritesoutherncuisine.com
- Instagram: savorite_tx
- Facebook: Savorite Southern Cuisine
- Youtube: https://youtu.be/ukHCWb1_I0U