People: Sean Chatman gains second chance through cooking

Erica Thompson

Reynoldsburg chef Sean Chatman spent his senior year of high school taking care of his older sister, who was battling cancer.

"Every day after school I had to come feed her, rub her back. She was literally 98 pounds and her hair was gone," he said. "Every night I prayed for [God] to take me instead of her."

Chatman's sister made a full recovery and eventually went on to graduate from Ohio State University. Chatman, however, was haunted by the promise he'd made. He didn't value his life for a long time, and he got into some trouble on his long journey to the culinary industry.

Take, for example, the C-Note Lounge. Chatman opened the North Side club with his mother in 1996 when he was in his mid-20s, and while the establishment was successful, it attracted a rough crowd. "We got in gun fights," Chatman said. One night someone nearly shot his father, and Chatman almost retaliated in a major way.

"[There's] no telling what would have happened to me if I'd have shot the dude," he said.

But there were also some highs during that time. As a rapper, Chatman - who performed under the names Finesse and Synk Diggy - had the opportunity to open for the Roots and De La Soul at a music festival at the University of Cincinnati.

By 1999, though, Chatman had another traumatic experience. "I went to like seven funerals in six months," he said. Thinking he would be next, he recorded an album and called itThe Last Chapter.

"I really didn't think I was going to make it to 2000. So it was my last chapter," he said.

When he survived that rough period, he finally realized he wasn't destined to die young. He made another overture to God. "I promised to show appreciation for my life," he said.

After engaging in productive projects, such as owning and operating a salon on Cleveland Avenue, he attended the Columbus Culinary Institute. The decision wasn't random; Chatman had developed a passion for food as a child, eating Asian dishes prepared by his Korean mother and classic soul food enjoyed by the African-American side of his family. He remembers watching food programs on PBS, as well as cooking show "The Galloping Gourmet." By age 11, he began cooking for himself.

"My mom was … working overtime all the time and I wanted good food, so I learned how to make it," he said.

He continued cooking as an adult, completing catering jobs on the side. At one point, he worked in his mother's now-closed Korean restaurant, Koreana, on Bethel road. He and his family also operated the Kimchee Shack at the Asian Festival each summer for more than a decade.

After culinary school, Chatman worked at the Columbus Country Club and Black Olive. He spent three years as the head chef of Two Fish Bistro. He also had the opportunity to cater Super Bowl parties for his friend, film director and Ohio native Bill Delaney, in Hollywood.

Desiring a restaurant of his own, Chatman purchased Sunset Grille in Reynoldsburg in April 2015. The new SC Bar & Kitchen specializes in "cultural comfort food" inspired by Chatman's heritage and the Cajun and Creole styles he grew to love.

"My two biggest sellers in the bar [are] the egg rolls that my mom comes in and rolls fresh every Tuesday and Thursday, and the Korean wings, which are her recipe," Chatman said.

He serves a diverse clientele, including 17 older women who come in every Monday after their golf game.

In addition to getting on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," Chatman's goal is simply to be successful. "This is kinda like my retirement plea," he said.

After so many challenges, Chatman is finally doing what he was meant to do. "I just like everything about food," he said. "I like the sound. I like the smell. I like the sight. … It makes me feel full. I'm fulfilled."

Name: Sean Chatman

Age: 45

Day Job: Owner and chef at SC Bar & Kitchen

Hometown: East Side

Current Neighborhood: Reynoldsburg

Currently listening to:"Old school [music]" and Scarface

Favorite Restaurant in Columbus: The Top

Favorite Movie: "Scarface"

Favorite TV show: "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"

What six-word phrase do you dread hearing? "Your rent is now considered late."