Reginald Otis Mack—better known as Chef ROM (pronounced “Rome”)—started his cooking career by posting photos of his food on Facebook and Instagram and selling it out of his home.
“Before I became a chef, I was actually a videographer/photographer,” says Mack. “People eat with their eyes first. So I was able to take my photography background and capture these pictures, trying to make it look at little better than what it really is.”
The business eventually grew into a catering company and food truck called House of ROM. And now Mack has teamed up with fellow chef Steven Wilson of Minute Events Catering to open a seafood-heavy soul-food restaurant called In A Minute Cafe in Capitol Heights on Friday, July 3.
Mack says he came to his culinary career after serving 18 weekends of jail time in 2008. “Everybody doesn’t have a clean background, and I’m kind of that guy. Unfortunately, I sold a few narcotics in my lifetime, so I got caught up,” he says. “My wife said, ‘You know what? You need to get in the kitchen. You need to go cook, because I’ve always had a love for cooking.’ ”
So Mack enrolled in Lincoln Culinary Institute in Columbia. In particular, he says, he wanted to learn how to make sauces.
Now Mack’s got his own signature sauce—a rémoulade with a secret combination of ingredients—that accompanies everything from jumbo lump crabcakes to crab-dip-topped cheesesteaks. The new restaurant goes heavy on crustaceans: crab grilled cheese on Texas toast, crabcake salad with asparagus and quinoa, and seafood fried rice . . . with crab.
Wilson had previously used the space for his own carryout called Wilson’s Soul Food, which served staples like fried chicken, collard greens, and mac and cheese. When the pandemic hit, he shut down. Mack reached out to him about temporarily renting out the spot. More recently, they decided to partner up. “We kicked it up a notch,” Mack says. “A couple notches.”
Beyond the seafood, In A Minute Cafe’s menu includes entrées such as creamy Cajun chicken pasta, beef-and-bean burgers, and Hennessy or honey-butter Old Bay wings. The restaurant is open for online ordering to start, with curbside pickup and delivery via DoorDash and UberEats.
In A Minute Cafe. 9244 East Hampton Dr., #203, Capitol Heights; 240-390-7146. Open Monday through Thursday 11 to 6, Friday and Saturday from 11 to 9. Closed Sundays.