Former American Idol Contestant Opens Chef Tony’s Culinary Delights

Romeo Diahn pictured outside Kitchen Spaces in the Drake Neighborhood, where he hosts Chef Tony's Culinary Delights, open only on Thursdays.
  • A new restaurant in the Drake neighborhood serves barbecue and Liberian food.

Ten years ago, Romeo Diahn was draped in a printed sweatshirt with a white v-neck t-shirt underneath performing “Is This Love?” of Bob Marley on the set of the “American Idol” singing competition in Portland, Oregon.

The 22-year-old shared his life story of leaving Liberia alongside his family as a refugee before the show’s panel, which included longtime “Idol” judge Randy Jackson, rocker of Aerosmith Steven Tyler and A-list actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.

After receiving a gold paper ticket to the Hollywood Week tours during the show’s 11th season, Diahn walked up to the camera and said, “America, I’m coming, I’m coming.”

Next, Lopez turned to Jackson and joked that Diahn had “a different vibe than anyone we’ve seen” as the Rose City Steel Bridge served as the backdrop.

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Diahn, or “Chef Tony” in culinary uniform, decided to choose a life with the culinary arts as his main course and pushed singing onto the side dish menu in the years after “Idol.”

Now Diahn is coming to the Drake neighborhood with a new Thursday-only restaurant called Chef Tony’s Culinary Delights, housed in the Kitchen Spaces kitchen rental building at 1139 24th St., featuring barbecue and dishes inspired by his Liberian childhood. .

Romeo Diahn holds up a platter of pork ribs, cornbread and macaroni and cheese at Kitchen Spaces in the Drake neighborhood, where he hosts his Thursday-only restaurant, Chef Tony's Culinary Delights.

The Passion Project is the final page in a lifetime story of disappointments, setbacks, and endless pursuits of an American dream.

“The refugee camp was horrible, but we are refugees from Liberia,” Diahn said in a Sept. 1 interview at the University Zone. “So we were able to be resettled to America via Ghana.”

Diahn’s family left Liberia after the country’s civil war in 1990. The family later fled to neighboring Ghana and lived in a refugee camp.

Pork ribs, cornbread and mac and cheese at Kitchen Spaces in the Drake neighborhood where Romeo Diahn hosts his Thursday-only restaurant, Chef Tony's Culinary Delights.

The former “Idol” contestant shared his family’s story of wartime survival on season 11 of the reality TV singing competition, which featured eventual winner Phillip Phillips. Diahn made it to the show’s top 100 contestants before being eliminated by the trio of judges.

The experience of appearing on national television was poor, he said, as he felt like he failed after being knocked out by Lopez, Jackson and Tyler.

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