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Big Steaks, Bigger Heart

Local Restauranter Helps Feed People In Need

Every day across Hendersonville, random acts of kindness are taking place.

Many folks are aware of some of these deeds, but the vast majority take place quietly and out of the glare of the publicity spotlight. Whether the acts involve donations of money, goods or services, the process is always the same. Needs are identified, and good people step up to meet them.

One such good person is local restauranteur, Ross El-Bobou, the owner and operator of Safari’s Brick Oven & Grill in Hendersonville.

Ross is a longtime restauranteur who began his food service career in 1983. Over the next 33 years, he held a variety of operational and management roles in numerous restaurants, including Major Wallaby’s, Crackerbarrel, Logan’s Roadhouse and O’Charley’s. Ross was also the owner/operator of the original Safari’s restaurant, which was located in the Rivergate area.

In 2016, Ross opened Safari’s Brick Oven & Grill at its East Main Street location in Hendersonville.  The restaurant offers an expansive food and drink menu that includes burgers, salads, seafood, fajitas, chicken dishes and brick oven-cooked pizzas and calzones. In addition, Safari’s offers some of the most sumptuous steaks around, including porterhouse, ribeye, sirloin and prime rib cuts.

Over the years, Safari’s has become a local favorite that is noted for its signature cuisine and its comfortable atmosphere. Its popularity has earned it numerous accolades, including winning the 2022 and 2023 Taste of Hendersonville “Best of Taste” awards and being named the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Small Business of the Year.

Most people around town know that Ross is legendary for his big steaks. However, most are unaware that he has an even bigger heart. For several years now, Ross has been quietly donating complete meals to families and organizations in need across Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

“Since the beginning, our customers have blessed us,” says Ross. “Helping to feed those in need is one of the ways that we give back to our community.”

Ross and his business partner Walter McCauley developed the meal giving idea when they became aware of how many people were facing food insecurity across the region.

“We began to hear stories about local families who had fallen on hard times, and who needed a little help to get back on their feet,” says Ross. “We knew that we had to do something, and we thought that providing a good hot meal for them could help make a difference.”

Despite his generosity, Ross never meets the end recipients of his meals. Instead, he prepares and packages the meals, and then hands them off to one of Walter’s contacts, Teresa Puckett, who delivers the food to the families or groups in need.

During 2022, Safari’s donated over 100 meals to area families and groups in need, ranging in size from four to twelve individuals. The restaurant also provided free meals for a 25-student class at a school in Kentucky. Due to the continuing need, Ross expects that he and his team will meet or exceed that number during 2023.

Along with donating meals, Ross also gives back by providing Safari’s gift certificates to area schools for awards and fundraising purposes. However, despite the costs of food, packaging materials and gift cards, Ross never takes a tax deduction.

“It is not about recognition nor tax write-offs,” says Ross. “It is about doing the right thing.”

"Meal donation is an important mission for us. We don't post about it, we don't announce it and we don't seek out photo opportunities. We do it because it needs to be done."

Ross El-Bobou

  • Safari's owner Ross El-Bobou prepares to donate a meal to a family.