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Restaurateur Maurice Prince has 101 reasons to celebrate

LOS ANGELES — Long before there was a Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, Maurice Prince’s Snack ‘N’ Chat was the happening soul food restaurant in Los Angeles.

Sweetie Pie’s wasn’t even thought of when Prince opened Snack ‘N’ Chat in 1978.

For the greater part of nearly three decades, the Pico Boulevard establishment generated plenty of memories, food and fun for Prince.

Now all that Prince has of those good times are the pictures of yesterday when well-known celebrities used to sit down for some of her fried chicken and sweet potatoes.

Prince came to Los Angeles in the 1940s, when Central Avenue was the hub of the black Los Angeles social scene. Prior to owning the restaurant, Prince held court with Cab Calloway, got in good with actress Hattie McDaniel, the first black woman to win an Academy Award; and was acquainted with Ella Fitzgerald.

Once she opened her restaurant, the celebrities came to her. Elizabeth Taylor and Tom Bradley, Los Angeles first black mayor, made the rounds at Snack ‘N’ Chat. So did Johnny Carson and Magic Johnson.

Friends and family members were on hand Sept. 10 to help Maurice Prince, seated at left, celebrate her 101st birthday. At right is former U.S. Rep. Diane Watson.
Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

The fact she is even around to recall those stories is a testimony. Prince celebrated her 101st birthday with a host of friends and family members, including former U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, at a gala bash Sept. 10 in downtown Los Angeles.

Not only can she recall the restaurant years, Prince was able to do it with plenty of clarity as she cut into her birthday cake and mingled jovially with well-wishers.

“Remarkable woman,” Britt Dixon said. “Snack ‘N’ Chat was probably the most successful African-American establishment. … The places that are here now, like Roscoe’s (House of Chicken & Waffles), they came after her. She was the prototype for them.”

Watson and Prince have been lifelong friends. They’ve known each other since Watson’s childhood days. Watson speaks reverently of her close friend and what brought them together. That bond was forged by Prince’s cooking baking goods for her daughter.

“Her home was the place that we went,” Watson said. “I went to school with her daughter. After school, she knew there would be something there for her.

“Her mind is still sharp today. She might not be able to hear as well or see well, but her mind is still sharp. There’s something about her hard work and what she ate and how she kept herself. She’s celebrating her 101st birthday and she’ll probably be around longer than that.

“It is amazing. Not everyone gets to live that long. She’s been blessed because she worked hard and worked well,” Watson added.

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