Couple share passion for hot chicken, building community

Joyce and Marlon Reed, Jr., hope to open their restaurant, Slow Burn Hot Chicken in the former Jack in the Box building on East Main Street in August.

It’s been a little more than five years since Joyce and Marlon Reed turned their long-time dream of owning their own restaurant into a reality.

The couple opened their first Slow Burn Hot Chicken restaurant on Myatt Drive in Madison, Tenn., in June of 2016.

Four years later, they introduced a second, take-out-only location on East Nashville’s McFerrin Drive in February 2020.

The two hope to build on the success of the last five years by moving the Madison location to Hendersonville – a place they called home for 15 years.

With renovations underway at the former Jack in the Box restaurant on East Main Street, the couple plan to be serving their signature dishes like hot chicken apple fritters, hot chicken burritos and hot chicken egg rolls by the end of August.

But they say serving flavorful dishes won’t be their only focus.

“We’ve just always been people that have been active in the community,” said Joyce Reed. “I believe anywhere that you go you should really do things where you live – that if people do more community driven things, our world would be better.”

A teacher for several years, Reed says the restaurant will give back to local schools and will look hard to find other needs in the community like helping those who are homeless.

She also said the couple eventually plans to start a local non-profit for those dealing with an issue they know all too well – childhood cancer.

The Reeds lost their youngest child, Jenaya in March of 2016 following a two-year bout with brain cancer. The fourth-grade student at Gene Brown Elementary was just nine years old.

Three months later, the couple opened their first restaurant.

“We always kind of wanted to open up a restaurant, and when she passed away, it was like, she lived every day to the fullest, why don’t we?” Joyce recalled.

The couple’s daughter Jazmine and son Xavier can also be seen helping out at the restaurant – either by checking customers out or busing tables.

A mechanic by trade, Marlon says he always found himself working in restaurants where he was able to quickly move into management positions. Shortly after moving to Hendersonville from Chicago in 2004, he applied for a cook position at Bluegrass Country Club where he worked for seven years.

He also served as the executive chef at several area hotels, landing at Fisk University before venturing out on his own.

Joyce worked for the Sumner County YMCA’s Fun Company for several years before student teaching in Sumner County Schools and then landing at Two Rivers Middle School in Metro Nashville where she taught math and special education.

The two say they work well together in the kitchen. He focuses on the heat, she on the flavor.

“He was the pepper king and I was the flavor queen,” she said.

“I was like fire it up,” Marlon adds with a chuckle. “She wanted to add flavor — which is good because that’s what brings people back.”

“And they keep eating it because it’s so good – but it’s hot,” she laughs.

The couple entered the amateur category at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival in 2014 – and won.

Recently, the pair was featured in an episode of Food Paradise highlighting Nashville eateries on the Cooking Channel.

Besides the hot chicken dishes, Marlon says customers will also want to try Joyce’s homemade ranch dressing and a new plant-based chicken made with all-vegan ingredients, the “Not Yo Chick’un Sandwich.”

“We want you to come in and have the slow burn experience,” said Marlon. “You will feel like a stranger walking in, but you’re going to leave like family.”

After living in Hendersonville for 15 years, the couple moved to Madison two years ago to be closer to that location.

Moving back is not out of the realm of possibility, they say.

“Eventually, yeh, I would love to move back here,” said Joyce. “With the opening of this restaurant, it does feel like we’re coming back home though.”

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