Cooking with Soul

Rutgers University–Camden alumna Corinne Bradley-Powers’ iconic Camden soul food restaurant has won a James Beard Award, one of the culinary world’s highest honors.

Corinne Bradley-Powers CCAS’79, founder of Corinne’s Place in Camden, which is one of six restaurants named a new America’s Classics Award Honoree by the James Beard Foundation.

March 3, 2022

By Sam Starnes

When Corinne Bradley-Powers recently learned that her restaurant had won a James Beard America’s Classics Award, she didn’t know what to make of it.

“The first time I heard about it I got a text that said, ‘Congratulations on the James Beard Award,’” said Bradley-Powers, who founded Corinne’s Place in 1989. “I looked and said, ‘James Beard Award, I don’t know what that is.’ Fortunately, through my thirty years, I’ve been blessed to get a lot of awards.”

Soon after that text, Bradley-Powers, who earned a sociology degree from Rutgers University-Camden in 1979, received a phone call from a reporter, and then another, and another. Later in the day, the news of her award brought many calls of congratulations, including a phone call from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who also tweeted about it. Bradley-Powers realized that the award was the restaurant equivalent of an Oscar.

“God was thinking about me,” Bradley-Powers said. “There were people in my corner that I wasn’t even aware of. I must be doing something halfway right.”

Corinne’s Place won a 2022 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award, one of six recipients for the award this year. It is the first New Jersey restaurant in more than a decade to win the prestigious award given to “locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” She is the second Rutgers–Camden alumnus to earn recognition from the James Beard Awards in recent years. Jesse Ito, a 2012 graduate from the Rutgers School of Business–Camden and chef/owner of Royal Izakaya in Philadelphia, was a finalist for the Rising Star Chef category in 2019 and is a semifinalist for the 2022 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category, the winner of which will be announced later this year.

Bradley-Powers, a native of Camden who worked for several years as a bookkeeper for the Camden County probation office after graduating from Camden High School, enrolled at Rutgers–Camden in the 1970s. She worked in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) office as a counselor, and she later served as a peer counselor on campus. After earning her degree, she went back to the probation office’s Juvenile Resource Center, where she worked to help troubled youth. Although she left the probation office after seven years to focus on catering and the restaurant, she continued her efforts with youth, hiring and and mentoring hundreds who have worked at Corinne’s Place.

Her longevity as a caterer and restaurant owner has connected her to thousands in the city, forming an enormous extended family of those she has employed, mentored and fed.

“There are not too many people in Camden that I have not touched,” Bradley-Powers said. “That’s one of the reasons why God favored me with this award.”

Honorees will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Please look for a longer feature story on Bradley-Powers in the forthcoming spring 2022 issue of Rutgers–Camden Magazine.

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