Meet the Chefs: Cynthia Wood, Antonia Poland combine skills at Davis Wayne's

Cynthia Wood, left, and Antonia Poland are co-owners of Davis Wayne's in Ooltewah's Cambridge Square development.
Cynthia Wood, left, and Antonia Poland are co-owners of Davis Wayne's in Ooltewah's Cambridge Square development.

Cynthia Wood and Antonia Poland are an unlikely pair. Wood is from Charleston, Tennessee, a small town about 40 miles north of Chattanooga. Poland is a big-city girl from Chicago. Wood worked in the nonprofit world, as well as in education, for 30 years; Poland was a real estate broker and agent before moving to Chattanooga.

But they had something in common, they discovered, when they met on Facebook. They both loved to cook and soon became business partners, opening Dipped Fresh, a deli-and-dessert shop in Coolidge Park. That led to the start of a catering company and online store for specialty desserts and, this past fall, the opening of Davis Wayne's, a restaurant that focuses on comfort foods in Ooltewah's Cambridge Square development.

photo Davis Wayne's restaurant, at 9454 Bradmore Lane in Ooltewah, focuses on comfort foods.

After closing their Coolidge Park eatery, Wood says she and Poland always kept the idea of opening another restaurant in the back of their minds. "The success of Dipped Fresh catering helped us narrow our focus in terms of what we wanted to offer our customers," she says.

Here they talk about how they divide kitchen duties, their must-have kitchen appliance and a favorite holiday party recipe.

Q: What do you think Davis Wayne's adds to the culinary vibe at Cambridge Square?

Wood: The community of business owners is top-notch, and the support and synergistic energy that flows through the square is incredible. Davis Wayne's adds to the mix by bringing traditional Southern cuisine to an area that has its finger on the pulse of the fastest-growing ZIP code in the state of Tennessee.

Poland: Davis Wayne's is an upscale meat-and-three that has its roots in preparing food that shows respect for the ingredients, while adding a modern-day twist to traditional recipes. Cambridge Square is a great location for Davis Wayne's.

Q: Where did the name come from?

Wood: It's a combination of my fathers' names. Davis is my stepfather's last name, and Wayne was my father's name. He passed away when I was 10 years old.

Poland: Cynthia is really wonderful with words and naming things. The combination of her fathers' names allowed us to honor them and to create a conversation regarding the blessings of family and tradition. That's what we stand for.

Q: Did you go to culinary school?

Wood: No. I grew up in the country and was surrounded by gardens and farms. There were no big-box stores or Fresh Markets. Food was a seed time and harvest experience for me.

Poland: Growing up in a city known worldwide for its food scene, I was influenced by a myriad of cultures and was exposed to their foods and the traditions that go along with preparing dishes in way that require you to think outside the box.

Q: How do you divide kitchen duties?

Wood: Both of us are well-versed in all things in the kitchen. However, my focus in mostly on preparing the meats that we serve.

Poland: My focus is mostly on the fresh-made veggies and desserts.

Q: Working this closely together must be like a marriage. What happens when you disagree?

Wood: Like with any relationship, disagreements have to be discussed and each person has to be given the respect and space to be heard. With that as our base, most things are easily resolved.

Poland: The bottom line is we always put the customer first, and that keeps our egos in check.

Q: What is your favorite kitchen appliance?

Wood: For me, it's my hand mixer. It belonged to my grandmother. I only use it at home, but it's priceless to me.

Poland: My silicone spatula. I can create most of my recipes using that simple tool.

Q: What food is your guilty pleasure?

Wood: We don't really have guilty pleasure foods like most people think of. Antonia has severe food allergies, which is the main reason we focus so intensely on the food we serve and the way we prepare it. There are no late-night runs for fast food or junk food. We've learned to eat clean and enjoy food that is of high standards. Food made fresh and free of additives, preservatives, no GMOs and no MSG is real food. It's good for you, and it tastes better than what is served in many places. My latest food indulgence is a prime filet.

Poland: My favorite thing in the world is a plain baked sweet potato. If that's on your menu, I'm usually able to eat at that establishment.

Q: What would y'all be doing if you weren't in the restaurant/catering business?

Poland: Most likely we would be solely focus on our nonprofit organization, The TryLove Foundation. It focuses on helping young people develop leadership skills and also assists people and individuals who fall between the cracks when it comes to receiving assistance from traditional nonprofit sources.

Q: What's the best memory you have of Christmas dinners?

Wood: It would be tons of memories filled with family and friends. Enjoying the down time and holiday cheer.

Poland: Holding hands, saying grace and just being in the presence of the people I loved most in the world.

photo Davis Wayne's restaurant owners Cynthia Wood, left, and Antonia Poland.

Q: What's Christmas dinner like for you now?

Wood: It's the same today as it used to be, except for the menu. We're usually so tired of the traditional Christmas dinner that we go off the map in terms of what is the norm.

Poland: Christmas dinner today could be anything from a Low Country boil, surf and turf, lasagna, heavy hors d'oeuvres or anything else we come up with that strikes us at that time.

Q: What's one of your favorite holiday party foods?

Wood: Our oven-roasted party wings are a big hit on our catering menu. The recipe is simple, and they come out crispy as if they've been fried, but you don't use any cooking oil whatsoever. Now you have me thinking this might be on the menu at home for Christmas.


Chicken wings, tips removed

Garlic powder, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Season-All seasoning, to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place wings evenly on a flat baking pan. Season with garlic, black pepper and Season-All. Place in preheated oven, and roast for about 30 minutes. Take wings out, and flip each one over. Place back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces, if desired.

Email Anne Braly at

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