The “Jalen Special” is a FoodChasers’ Kitchen Touchdown

What inspired a pair of retired school principals to swap report cards for recipes and transform their passion into a thriving restaurant? Meet Dr. Kala and Dr. Maya Johnstone, identical twin sisters whose culinary journey materialized during the pandemic, bringing to life their dream restaurant, FoodChasers’ Kitchen in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

Their journey into the food world started with social media. “Throughout the school year, we’d make a list of places we wanted to visit from the Food Network,” Maya said. “We would take pictures of the food we liked and post them on Instagram for our friends and family.” What began as posts on social media slowly evolved into the development of FoodChasers’ Kitchen. As their staging improved and their account became more popular, they soon found themselves with thousands of followers on Instagram.

Then, a pivotal moment happened during the pandemic. The sisters launched a catering company and had a “now or never” premonition. “People were calling and asking for specific items we had to teach ourselves how to make,” Kala said. Eventually they decided to make a more targeted menu. Armed with their brother’s suggestion to trademark their name and money saved from their retirement pensions, the sisters decided to make their dreams a reality and open a restaurant. FoodChasers’ Kitchen officially launched in December 2021. Given their extensive following pre-opening, the community was eager for the reveal. The response was overwhelming, with over 500 meals served in their first three days.

FoodChasers’ Kitchen has a diverse menu inspired by the sisters’ travels and family kitchens. Grits from South Carolina and brioche French toast with spicy honey sauce are a few favorites amongst patrons. But perhaps their most popular item is the “Jalen Special,” named after the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts and made with seasoned steak, fried onions, Cooper sharp cheese, and mayo. “We were asked to host a commercial with Hurts, and ever since then, he’s been involved with FoodChasers’,” the twins said. “He came in one day and started making a cheesesteak. It’s become a staple.”

But Jalen Hurts isn’t the only celebrity to grace the kitchen of FoodChasers’. Followers on their Instagram tagged Salt-N-Pepa in a video, extending them an invite to eat at the restaurant. The hip-hop duo made an appearance shortly after the video was posted. Additionally, a friend of theirs who collaborated with Lizzo on one of her albums planned a special dinner at FoodChasers’ Kitchen for her.

Beyond serving delicious food, FoodChasers’ Kitchen is deeply committed to philanthropy. “Our original business plan had charity in mind. We wanted to do something once a month to give back to the community,” said Maya. From exposing students to diverse foods to providing scholarships and educating them about finance and wellness, FoodChasers’ Kitchen hopes to make a lasting impact on the lives of young minds.

The Johnstone sisters advocate for education, resilience and self-advocacy as female entrepreneurs in a predominantly male-dominated industry. Before opening the restaurant, the two took business classes and worked hard to find resources to make them successful. “You’re going to be told ‘no’ a million times, but all it takes is one yes,” they said. They encourage others to be their own advocate when chasing a dream.

Looking ahead, the Johnstone sisters envision growth and expansion. Their dream includes a larger location featuring a bar and potential expansion into the Philadelphia airport.


Nicolette Degrassi

Nicolette Degrassi is a Boston based food and travel blogger. When she's not traveling the world, you can find her reading the latest Book of the Month novel or trying to perfect her sticky toffee pudding recipe. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nadegrassi.


Leave a Comment