NORFOLK, Va. - While most were getting ready to celebrate the New Year, Thursday night, Dorian Flood was busy cooking up a storm.
"I have to have the most tender collard greens known to mankind. I’ve been cooking collard greens all night long and candied yams, macaroni and cheese and all the comfort foods that we enjoy eating," Flood told News 3 on Friday, just minutes before opening Aunt Dorian's in the MacArthur Center food court.
At 58 years old, Flood, a Norfolk native and resident is starting over.
Between 1998 and 2015 she had about a dozen Aunt Dorian's locations around Hampton Roads, famous for Southern homecooking straight from your aunt's kitchen.
"I opened it up to create a legacy for my son. My son's name was Calvin Eugene Hamlin Jr. He was killed in a car accident. He was my only child," Flood said. "When he passed (in 2006) I lost some of the passion for cooking."
Flood says she eventually closed the last Aunt Dorian's location in 2015, but her spark wouldn't be dimmed for long. Her granddaughter, Zahniya Brown, who was just four months old when her father died, began developing a love for cooking.
The two spent a lot of time cooking together, Flood says, and that inspired her to return to the world of owning her own place.
"Now she's watched her grandmother build a restaurant from the ground up so now she can continue the legacy," she said.
This time, it'll be grandmother and granddaughter working together. Flood says Brown helped her with the restaurant's computer system. The 14-year-old was working the cash register on Aunt Dorian's opening day.
It's the first time Flood has been able to get into the MacArthur Center to operate her restaurant. Aunt Dorian's also happens to be the mall's restaurant owned by an African American woman.
"I'm, like, excited. She's a very hardworking woman and I just love it," said Brown of her grandmother. "I love that about her. I don't know, I'm speechless."
Asked what she would recommend new customers try from Aunt Dorian's, Brown said Flood's honey barbecue chicken is her favorite, along with the macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
But it's not just Flood's granddaughter that's supporting this new start. Her husband was at the opening and her sister, Deanna Guess, too.
"She had a little Easy Bake Oven and she would cook in this Easy Bake Oven for her siblings," Guess recalled. "Fast forward to this moment here. I cannot tell you...The pride? You see how I got in this interview? I had to get into this interview to tell the world, this is my sister."
With that support from family and an ongoing love of cooking for other people, Flood is as energetic as ever to see where she can take Aunt Dorian's.
She says opening during a pandemic is a challenge, but one she's ready to take on.
"I love the joy that I get from people when I cook for them. Cooking is a passion job," she said. "(And) as my sister, Deanna Guess, says to me all the time, everybody loves a good comeback story."
Aunt Dorian's is open during MacArthur Center mall hours. Click HERE for more information.