With a passion for cooking and a brain for finance, Sadaya (Daisy) Lewis, MBA ’08, has found success as a restaurant entrepreneur with her fast-casual concept at the newly renovated Budd Dairy Food Hall in Columbus, Ohio. The menu at Modern Southern Table is filled with southern staples rooted in family recipes and the memories of loved ones in the kitchen.
“I really care about the heritage of it. I’m not somebody that just likes the food. We are southerners and it’s who we are,” said Lewis. “We gather around the table, we tell stories, we communicate, we love on each other – all around a table. It’s the story of my family and I take pride in it.”
From fried chicken to her grandma’s gumbo, Lewis and her team at Modern Southern Table work hard to make sure that each dish feeds both the soul and the stomach.
“Each dish needs to come out exactly how my grandmother would have wanted it, because that was her legacy,” said Lewis. “I’m honoring my family, their food, and letting people know that this is what they cared about.”
Before she was serving up food, Lewis was making moves in the finance world.
“I started out with a focus on finance. I worked for Morgan Stanley, actually the whole time I was in my MBA program at Capital, but I would always have a side job with food,” said Lewis. “It all started with small meals I was cooking for Morgan Stanley employees. I won’t say it was a catering business. It was just me selling lunches. It sounds exhausting, but I was excited. I worked eight or 10 hours at Morgan Stanley and then I would go cook. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved finance, but food was always calling.”
While she started cooking when she was nine years old, Lewis didn’t see it as a full-time career path until 2014 when she won a food court stall through The Food Network’s “Food Court Wars.”
“Just randomly, The Food Network got ahold of one of my meals. Immediately after the show I opened that restaurant, and then that’s when everything blew up,” said Lewis. “I won the restaurant, and then it turned into a catering business. I like to tell people it’s the power of manifestation.”
Lewis was looking for a new adventure in Columbus when she stumbled across a Facebook ad for a new food court concept by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
“Fast forward five years later and we finally opened in 2021. We were selected from up to 120 applicants. It was the best decision we ever made,” said Lewis. “When I signed up for it, I knew the Cameron Mitchell name alone was going to draw people. I knew the service, the build, everything was going to be stellar. So why wouldn’t I try to be a part of it. I knew our food was something that Columbus didn’t really have.”
Opening a new restaurant is incredibly risky on its own, but the risk intensifies during a global pandemic. Despite the challenges, Lewis was right, and customers have continued to flock not only to the Budd Dairy Food Hall, but specifically to Modern Southern Table where they are treated like family.
“I’m really just communicating my story through food,” said Lewis. “They tell you doors open if you’re ready. I’m beyond grateful for what has happened.”
For more information about the MBA program at Capital, go to https://www.capital.edu/academics/adult-and-grad-programs/master-of-business-administration/.
To learn more about Modern Southern Table, visit https://www.modernsoutherntable.com/.