James Beard-nominated chef Charles Gabriel has been serving the Harlem, NY, community for nearly 50 years, Gothamist reports.

Gabriel — born into a sharecropping family on Oct. 12, 1947, in North Carolina — spent numerous hours during the day working the fields as a child, according to CBS News. By evening, he could be found in the kitchen cooking in a cast iron pan.

“The family – including Charles from the age of six – picked cotton from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a nearby plantation. In the evening, his mother would cook for the entire family. In his mother’s kitchen, Charles learned to prepare the food we all enjoy today,” Gabriel’s website mentions.

His passion for cooking would lead him to pack his bags and head to New York City, NY, when he was just 17 years old.

Gabriel landed a position at Copeland’s, a popular soul food restaurant in Hamilton Heights that eventually closed its doors in 2007 due to gentrification, per The New York Times.

Gabriel seasoned his skills for over 20 years, working in the kitchen. He then took a leap to grow his own consumer base by cooking in his Harlem apartment and serving food from a folding table in front of his building, his website shares.

But an even greater opportunity presented itself when he was greeted by a woman looking to sell her food truck for $25 per week. Gabriel agreed to buy it, and he was able to scale his culinary efforts to the food truck and operated under this business model for five years.

Per his website, the business was successful and allowed him to open his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Charles Pan Fried Chicken, on 8th Avenue between 152nd and 153rd Streets.

The restaurant now offers menu items including pulled pork, barbecue smoke rubs, smothered turkey legs, and of course its signature pan fried chicken, among others.

The support for the restaurant has continued to accelerate. In fact, with the help of chef and Chief Operating Officer Quie Slobert, Gabriel has been able to expand to four restaurants.

“It’s been beautiful,” Gabriel told Gothamist. “It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable all the people that have inspired me, who have come by to eat over the course of so many years.”