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3 questions with Kiana Morrison, restaurateur

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Before the South was urbanized with other diverse flavors, soul food defined the foundation of Southern culinary heritage. Surprisingly enough, Nana's Soul Food Kitchen wasn't born from someone of Southern origin. Kiana Morrison, co-owner of Nana's, moved with her husband and family to Charlotte from New York, after falling in love with the Queen City while visiting relatives. Opening just this year in South Charlotte, Charlotteans can sample some of Nana's soul, as Nana's — a proud family-owned establishment — serves family-inspired recipes all week long. Morrison confesses she had no desire to own a soul food eatery until she moved to Charlotte, but satisfied with her and her husband's decision, the couple plan on opening another Nana's in Charlotte in the near future.

Creative Loafing: What defines soul food as soul food?

Kiana Morrison: To me, soul food is a fusion of many types of foods and recipes that have been in the family for generations — baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad. [Soul food] is what brings family together. It's important as a family to have some time together when you don't have to worry about feeding the dog or going to basketball practice. Soul food, or comfort food, allows you to just kick back and unwind with family and talk to each other to find out about what's going on with school or work; it gives us the time we need to unwind and catch up with each other. In all, soul food to me is about family bonding and having some laughs.

Did you grow up eating soul food regularly?

I grew up eating soul food, just not every day. I wasn't just on a strict soul food diet growing up. Baked beans and macaroni salad, those were the only two items that my family had on holidays or at family gatherings. Growing up, my family and I ate a lot of pasta and chicken. My favorite meal was chicken and white rice — almost like a stew. It's probably still my favorite meal, although I love Italian and Chinese food.

Since you now own your own business, could you ever imagine doing anything else with your life?

Yes, I am very much into fashion and interior design. I love shopping, of course, but the best part is the end result when everything comes together and you have the finished product. I could definitely see myself exploring that field further. I designed Nana's — as soon as I saw the space, I already knew what I was going to do as far as color and design. I love working with colors and fabrics. Although I'm more comfortable working with food because I do it all the time; I don't like to work with budgets, and with design and fashion, you have to work on a budget. It would be hard working on a budget when you want to give someone what you envision for them.

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