Michiana's Menu: The man behind the art at Bantam Chicken & Seafood

Michiana’s Menu: The man behind the art at Bantam Chicken & Seafood

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- You might have seen the exquisite, beautiful dishes served at Bantam Chicken & Seafood. For this week's Michiana's Menu, we spoke with the man behind the magic.

“My family is from New Orleans, Memphis and Mississippi, and I grew up in a household where everyone cooked, my mom cooked, my dad cooked, my grandma, everyone cooked,” says Chef Dont’e Shaw. “I started cooking when I was 15, just doing mom and pop shops and even working at fast food restaurants but more, so I wanted to go into art at first.”

Dont’e Shaw first set out for his dreams with an eye for art, a gift that quickly expanded beyond the canvas, but to the dish, too.

“I couldn’t afford to actually go to art school so it was one of those things where I go I guess I am stuck with cooking but then I really fell in love with it, and then started to take the hard knock life, that’s when chefs go to restaurants and self-taught chefs instead of going to culinary school.”

Shaw worked and learned in many kitchens, from casinos, country clubs, mom and pop shops, anywhere to perfect his craft. The hard knock life eventually leading him here as the head chef and owner of Bantam Chicken and Seafood in South Bend.

“I wanted to own my own restaurant, I felt that in doing so I would have to just do it myself and not wait for anybody it is one of those things you just have to go for it.”

Bantam brings comfort food with an added twist. The chicken and seafood hub serve everything from a tasty hot chicken sandwich, crab hushpuppies, shrimp and grits and beyond!

The menu will have you admiring a plate for its look, and its taste. The restaurant remains a testament to the hard work, and the journey that Chef Shaw first embarked on at 15.

“So, I look at myself every time I feel down, every time I feel like it is not going my way, I think about from where I started to where I am now and I say ok if you started from there and you are here now.”

His perseverance and journey continue to inspire any and all who set out on a goal and never look back.

“I did not have a lot when I was young, and growing up in poverty and things like that around the community and me just being somewhere a hole in the wall and showing people you can definitely do it come out of that you just have to push yourself it is all in your mind.”

A message that he hopes will ring through not only the city, but specifically, the black community as well.  

“Nobody was coming and saying hey do you know what this means or how to get a business started. I can tell you right now, we do not know, and they probably think you need this or you need a lot of money. Sometimes it is just going to talk to someone and putting in the work; in fact a lot of it is just going in and putting the work in.”

As for the future? Chef Shaw hopes he only continues to move forward.

“I am going in the right direction, I am going to the right place, I just have to keep going.”

Visit Bantam Chicken and Seafood here.  

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