He worked in Waco, Texas, where he met his future wife, Tatia. In 2010, the Lewises moved to Charleston, where his sister lived. "We left Texas with $150 and a full tank of gas," he said.
The changing scenery bemused Tatia Staunton, who had never seen hills. "I saw the signs that said to watch out for falling rocks. Then we found out about deer crossing," she said. After getting settled in their new home, she stopped into Peculiar Boutique & Thrift Store, a business Honeycutt-Staunton operates to benefit missionary work. The shop shares an entrance with I Rise.
While shopping, Tatia Lewis mentioned that her husband cooks Cajun, which the Stauntons thought would add dimension to their soul food and Jamaican menu. Both Honeycutt-Staunton, a Charleston native, and Staunton, who grew up in Oak Hill, cook. Her specialty is baked chicken leg and thigh quarters.
"It's so tender, the meat comes right off the bones," said Staunton of the fragrant chicken. "You've heard of the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices? It doesn't touch Kawanna's."
Staunton learned to cook from his mother, whose food he describes as gourmet, and still uses her recipes for apple pie and blackberry cobbler. He honed his appreciation of good food when he traveled through Europe during a stint with the Air Force. "I was a taster. I'd eat out and try to figure out what was in the dishes," said Staunton.
Staunton's talents extend outside the kitchen. He renovated the building, adding light to the artsy dining area by uncovering a large window. He pulled off yellow siding to reveal the window and a brick façade and fixed up the adjoining thrift store, where the profits of the donated goods benefit Missionary Outreach Ministries. In it, Honeycutt-Staunton sells adult clothes for $1, shoes for $2 and children's clothes for 25-cents apiece.
The owners welcome catering and take out orders and say they can package buffet items as quickly as a fast food restaurant, but then they miss the pleasure of seeing customers enjoy their food when they order take out.
"We like feeding people. Their plates come back empty," Staunton said. "I think we really do something different here. You have all kinds of flavors -- Cajun, Soul and Jamaican."
I Rise Soul Food Cafe, 1599 Washington St. E., is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, from 7 a.m. to midnight Friday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Saturday. Call 304-421-7283 or 304-410-2465.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.