Renowned chef Kenyatta Ashford is launching a $450,000 crowd-sourced investment campaign for his Afro-Creole restaurant concept, Neutral Ground. This opportunity allows not only accredited investors, but Neutral Ground’s past and future customers and the community at large to invest in the expansion of the business. The campaign is being administered through WeFunder, a
crowdsourced Angel Investor Network.
“WeFunder is a great way for a growing business to bring investors on the journey with us," Mr. Ashford said. "This is not a loan or a donation. It is an investment with a return."
With an overall goal of nearly a half million dollars to fund Neutral Ground’s new Chattanooga location, Mr. Ashford is faced with his first goal of raising $50,000 by Aug. 31. “We’ve done really well and almost achieved the first step in the fundraising process. Chattanooga, our loyal customer base, friends and family have all been incredibly generous to get us to this point,” Mr. Ashford said.
In 2020 during the pandemic, Mr. Ashford launched his Neutral Ground brand, defying the odds and grew a successful and profitable business while based in the Proof Incubator. In 2022 Mr. Ashford’s loyal following continued to support him as he added a catering arm to the Neutral Ground brand. At that time he became a member at LAUNCH’s Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga. However, Mr. Ashford has always had his sights on his own brick and mortar restaurant. He is considering a number of potential locations for Neutral Ground, including the vibrant Southside.
While building out a restaurant may be a daunting undertaking, Chef Kenyatta is no stranger to big challenges, or big wins. In 2020, Mr. Ashford was invited by the Food Network to participate in the popular cooking competition, Chopped. He not only made it to the final round, but took first place. Despite the difficulty of the competition, he joked that the hardest part was keeping his victory to himself until the episode aired.
“Man, that was hard. People would ask how I did and all I could tell them was I made it to the final round. But eventually the wait was worth it when I could finally claim the title of Chopped Champion,” Mr. Ashford said.
In addition to his TV success, Mr. Ashford boasts an array of awards and experience in diverse culinary destinations. He was awarded a Jean-Louis Palladin Work Study grant by the James Beard Foundation. That grant allowed him to explore authentic cuisine in Ghana, study Gullah Geechee cooking in Charleston, and Savannah, and work as Chef de Cuisine in various high-end restaurants. He has also initiated and currently works with several community programs including the “4 Courses & Supper Club,” to educate and empower local high school youth who are interested in the culinary industry. Now, he is eager to once again share his unique culinary talents with Chattanooga by launching his own brick and mortar restaurant.