Triumvirate of entrepreneurs behind Palmetto Low Country Cuisine

There is absolutely no question as to who runs the show at Palmetto Low Country Cuisine. As detailed in the Chow section of today’s paper, it isn’t rare to see head chef and owner Carlos Brown balancing several different tasks like circus talent on any given night. His incessant pacing through the main walkway of the restaurant allows him to observe every nuance and act on them accordingly. He prepares food. He delivers dishes (sometimes). He inquires about the dining experience of his guests. He cleans the floor. He directs his employees (often). He buses tables. He literally does it all.

Brown is an experienced restaurateur from Charleston, S.C. who has made a name for himself by infusing the southern gullah/geechee and Creole foods into his repertoire of culinary masterpieces. Since August 2010, he has served the Piedmont Triad meticulously prepared low country cuisine, with a twist, but he hasn’t done it alone. Brown only makes up one third of a powerful triumvirate of entrepreneurs, making Palmetto one of Greensboro’s best kept secrets.

During the planning process of what was to become Palmetto, Brown was introduced to Ezekiel Jiles, who is known in hip-hop circles as Diplomats/Dipset member “Freekey Zekey.” Jiles is president of Diplomats Records and owner/CEO of 730 Dips Records.

“[When I met Jiles] I didn’t know about Dipset or anything like that,” Brown said.

There was no hesitation when Jiles approached Brown about a business partnership. After teaming up, conversations expanded until Palmetto came to fruition. Jiles, a New York native and internationally known hip-hop artist, recounts how he unexpectedly became part owner of a restaurant in Greensboro, NC.

“I guess it was fate,” Jiles said. “We didn’t plan any of this!”

In the late 1990s, Diplomats records found themselves $1.4 million in debt. Jiles, desperate to free Dipset of their financial burdens, took to illegal activities for extra money. This resulted in his 1999 arrest on charges regarding the possession of an illegal substance. In another stroke of back luck, Jiles was a victim of a 2003 shooting near Greenwich Village, NY. Following his recovery, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his drug charges.

While the arrest took place in Wilmington, NC, Jiles was sent to the Durham Correctional Center where he served out his sentence. He was released in 2006 and received aid in getting re-acclimated to life as a free man from his good friend and mentor, Rick Dalton. Dalton, a Greensboro native and independent owner and operator of Dalton Logistics, convinced Jiles to stay in NC and pursue other endeavors. Since the completion of his sentence, Jiles has started 730 Dips records and became a spokesperson for Preserve our Legacy, a bone marrow research and awareness organization.

“Maybe this is part of my calling,” Jiles said reflectively.

Dalton is the unspoken conduit that helped bring Jiles and Brown together. The three realized they had a shared vision for success and they now support each other’s individual businesses and projects while simultaneously contributing to the success of Palmetto.

Commenting on Jiles’ involvement with the restaurant, Dalton effectively summarizes the scope of that shared vision.

“This is bigger than rap. This is about creating opportunities.”

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