Peoples Choice

Downtown Fresno’s food for the soul

CHEF PAUL’S CAFE: Chef Paul Pearson is developing a loyal following with dishes like chicken and waffles, greens and grits.
CHEF PAUL’S CAFE: Chef Paul Pearson is developing a loyal following with dishes like chicken and waffles, greens and grits.

Paul Pearson says God gave him the desire of his heart. The desire was to cook, and today many satisfied customers appreciate the soul food he produces at Chef Paul’s Cafe in Fresno’s Chinatown.

Someone bet him $1,000 that he couldn’t make a restaurant work in that location. Pearson has since collected on the bet.

He gets 200 to 250 customers a day, and on Sunday, people are lined up when the restaurant opens to serve fried chicken, braised oxtails, meatloaf, ribs, fried and baked fish, greens, grits and more.

Pearson, 64, was 13 when he got his first restaurant job. Fifty years later, after working in many of Fresno’s finer restaurants, he’s still happy in the kitchen. “I’ve truly enjoyed it. I’m very fortunate,” he says.

Pearson credits Al Pardini, a late Fresno restaurateur, with teaching him how to cook.

At Chef Paul’s Cafe, he credits his buddy, Pete Salcedo, with helping things run smoothly. But the top credit goes to his wife, Rose Marie, also known as “Pinky.”

“She’s the backbone of this place,” says Pearson, who also has a catering business.

Chef Paul’s Cafe, 952 F St., is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday. “Like” the restaurant on Facebook.

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