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TCC alums chart new course into business ownership

Shrimp and grits. Macaroni and cheese. Chicken and waffles. Chicken salad. Fried wings. These are just a sampling of the home-style dishes served at Malani’s American Cuisine in Chesapeake, owned and operated by Tidewater Community College alumni Janine and John Williams.

The recipes and cooking are Janine’s forte, and the business planning is John’s. 

Janine came up from corporate America, working in food service for Grand Affairs, QVC and Smokey Bones. She also worked as food service director for her church, Mount Lebanon Baptist. During that time she earned her culinary arts degree at the Norfolk Campus.

“TCC had so many great classes. We learned everything from menu planning to American cuisine to catering, which gave me great insight into portion size and pricing,” Janine said. “I learned more than I ever thought possible, and especially enjoyed getting into the kitchens and getting to work. The price was right, too. I graduated with no debt.”

During Janine’s time at TCC, Chef Deanna Freridge took a group of students to the International Food Show in New York. “Chef Dee is amazing and so knowledgeable,” Janine said. “The New York trip gave me the chance to try different things and think about how I could translate them into items for my own menu.”

Several years after graduating from TCC, Janine took a chance on her own restaurant and said she received a spiritual message that the time was right.

John and Janine Williams in front of Malani's American CuisineThe couple opened Malani’s on April 17 to a crowded dining room and a line out the door. “It was an amazing day, and we were embraced by our church family and the neighborhood,” Janine said. “What I’ve learned since then is that you have to be patient. Some days we’re full; others we’re not. Every day we pray before we open, and we’re trusting God with all of it.”

Malani’s is named for the Williams’ daughter Janay, 13, whose middle name is Malani. The couple also has three sons, John II, 26; Jalene, 21; and Joshua, 12.

Janine and John are no strangers to hard work. John is retired from the Navy and earned his TCC business degree at the Chesapeake Campus while still in the service. “Owning a business is not a 9-to-5 thing. We’re going every day,” John said. “I know that we would not be here now without the business knowledge I gained at TCC.

“The courses gave me an insight into planning, accounting, taxes – everything,” he added. “TCC has been a blessing and has helped me show my children that with education and hard work, anything is possible.”

Malani’s is open six days a week and features red plate specials, a twist on the more commonly known blue plate specials, that include customer favorites from wings to fried fish.

The staff is considered part of the Williams’ extended family. TCC students and alums receive a 15 percent discount.

From here, Janine is thinking of bigger things. “I’m always dreaming. And next I’d like to see our home-style cooking packaged and for sale at big retailers. I’d like to start with my chicken salad. It’s the flat out favorite.”

Malani’s American Cuisine is located at 940 Cedar Road, Suite 102 in the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake.

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