Ty Goins grew up in Plainfield, N.J., eating Southern-style food prepared by his grandfather, a Georgia native — collard greens, fried cabbage, fatback. "He never used a measuring cup or spoon," Goins says. "He just knew exactly what needed to go in."
As a child, Ty used to be amazed watching his grandparents, Bobby Lee and Jessie Mae Goins, cook large quantities of food during holiday meals for the family, which includes 19 grandchildren. He also learned cooking from his mother, Pamela Cobbs-Walker — a believer that men should learn to prepare food and keep house for themselves. "Growing up, my mother always had me in the kitchen," says Goins, now 36. "It just took." He continued cooking but did not make it a career until about three years ago. He moved to the Richmond area in 1994 for a job transfer with Sears; he was an assistant manager for the chain's automotive center at the since-closed Cloverleaf Mall and later worked for Wachovia Corp. In his spare time, Goins held cookouts at his house and for special family occasions. Guests started asking him to cook for their events, leading him to start his Touch Ov Soul catering business.
As his customer base grew, Goins decided he wanted a place where people could come to him. He opened the Touch Ov Soul restaurant (14 N. 18th St., 648-1279) in July. There, you'll find many traditional Southern soul-food dishes. But Goins, who converted to Islam when he was a teenager, has adapted the recipes he grew up with to make them pork-free. Thus, Touch Ov Soul has fried, smothered turkey chops rather than pork chops, and the greens are flavored with turkey ham. (For the chops, turkey is pressed into a pork-chop form.) The restaurant also serves fried and barbecued chicken, spaghetti (a favorite of Goins' mother, who died last year), fried whiting filets, catfish nuggets, candied-yam casserole, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese.The banana pudding prepared by Goins' girlfriend, Santia Davis, who helps him run the restaurant, has also proved to be popular. "People want that by the tub," he says.