With an expansion of her chicken-and-waffles restaurant set for this year, South Carolina chef Kiki Cyrus looks back before a big year ahead.

Kiki's Chicken and Waffles outside shot
Cyrus launched her chicken operation as a humble food truck. Now it’s a beloved Columbia chainlet.
| Credit: Photography by Peter Frank Edwards

For Kiki Cyrus, the chef and co-owner of Kiki's Chicken and Waffles in Columbia, South Carolina, 2018 was a year for the books. She was selected by South Carolina governor Henry McMaster as one of four chefs to serve the state as a chef ambassador; the program had Cyrus traveling around the country to promote South Carolina's food culture with cooking demonstrations, guest appearances, and panels, including one with our own Rachael Ray. 

Cyrus has been a Columbia star for years: Her soul food spot has been a favorite of not only locals but also bigwigs like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, who enjoyed the fried chicken and red-velvet waffles there in 2017. But now she's branching out: A second location is set to debut in Columbia in April, and future outposts are pegged for Charleston, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Charlotte, North Carolina. 

It's an about-face from her early career. "There have been times when I wasn't given a chef position because they didn't feel I was capable of doing the job—because I am a woman," says Cyrus. "I overcame that by opening my own restaurant, knowing that I wouldn't have to ask anyone for an opportunity to be the great chef that I know I am." For Cyrus, the benefits of being a woman in the kitchen outweigh the hardships: "Being a female chef, I find that every day is a new experience," she says. "I have the ability to shape the day to my liking." We predict that, for this ever-ambitious chef, the days will be bright. 

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