Trap Fusion restaurant offers healthier soul food in Whitehaven

During a conversation with the owners of Trap Fusion, a restaurant opening soon at 4637 Boeingshire Drive in Whitehaven, two things become very obvious: the co-owners are proud of their food and their neighborhood.

“I’m a hood top chef,” said co-owner Jason Gardener. “I can compete with any chef in the city, and I guarantee you I would give them a run for their money.”

Trap Fusion will offer a menu featuring healthier takes on southern classics as well as seasonal dishes and seafood options from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant will open on May 18.

Monique Williams, a pastry and soul food chef who previously operated Pat-A-Cake’s Bake Shop at 9200 Chimneyrock Boulevard, says that transforming soul food into healthy fare is an easy thing to do.

“With southern dishes, things are cooked a lot of grease, fat, starches and carbs. We’re taking those things and replacing them with healthier ingredients,” said Williams. “For example, with southern cuisine you sometimes have green beans that are almost soggy and limp, but they’re cooking all the nutrients out. It doesn’t have to be prepared that way for it to still be flavorful.”

“We’re trying to provide a service for the community, combating obesity, combating high blood pressure, things of that nature,” said co-owner Markeith McCoy who owns a mobile grocery store which services food deserts. “I think we’ll provide a different option for people who are looking for that here, but they just don’t have the outlet for.”

The trio decided to set up shop at heart of Whitehaven in an old Polard’s BBQ location which needed extensive renovations.

Exterior of Trap Fusion, a restaurant opening soon at 4637 Boeingshire Drive. (Baris Gursakal)

Gardener also operates BeLeaf Cigar Company at 4593 Elvis Presley Boulevard and worked as an operations manager at Service Master prior to becoming an entrepreneur.

“You can find a burger or a hot wing on just about every corner, however everybody wants to live a healthier lifestyle, but those options are not provided to them,” said Gardener. “We’re going to offer things that people really want to eat and have a taste for in this neighborhood, but have to go outside of the community to get.”

Related: "Success is smoky for brothers growing cigar business in Whitehaven"

To help complete the buildout of interior renovations and improve the visibility and appearance of the restaurant’s exterior, Trap Fusion was approved for $14,500 of assistance from the Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine ICED Loan Program. The Greater Whitehaven Economic Redevelopment Corporation also supports the project.

“Hopefully, what we’re doing here will spill over into the businesses around us and help bring the community back as well,” said Gardener. “We want to make sure that the community is involved we want to create.”

“We want to invest in the community and hire people from the community,” added Williams.

As longtime residents of Whitehaven, Gardener and McCoy feel a strong sense of pride for their neighborhood. Although city efforts and programs like EDGE have shown improvement in their community, they think more needs to be done towards promoting job creation and providing residents with a livable wage.

“Graceland is the second most visited house in the country. It’s very very high up there as a tourist attraction. Then, when you get off the interstate, why does our neighborhood look like this? When you get off on Elvis Presley, it’s horrible. They absolutely need to do something. I would like to see them invest a lot more,” said Gardener.

“When I was in high school this was a booming community, and I was back in high school in 1997, so it’s not that long ago," Gardener added. "But when I come back and I see the way neighborhood looks in certain places, I don’t want to bash the neighborhood or anything like that, but in certain places, it’s just like it’s forgotten land."

Trap Fusion plans to be available on Uber Eats and Door Dash May 15th. They can be found on Facebook and Instagram by searching @TrapFusion901.

“That is what we’re trying to create here, a model a platform for people to look at and see that it can be done, and after that they can actually take control of themselves,” said McCoy.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Baris Gursakal.

Baris Gursakal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an Istanbul native who grew up in Memphis, and has an interest in public policy and social justice issues.