Sheldon Todman is better known as Shellz Kitchen, a visual artist who spends time documenting the neighborhood, interviewing people and preserving the memories of stores, restaurants and places that are no longer in Hell’s Kitchen while also welcoming newcomers. This is his West Side Story

Sheldon moved to Hell’s Kitchen before he was one year old. Pictured at PDL Vintage. Photo: Naty Caez

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born in St Thomas US Virgin Islands and moved to Hell’s Kitchen before the age of one. I was raised in Hell’s Kitchen and have lived here all my life.

What was your first job? What do you do now?
Right after dropping out of college I became a security guard at a bank called BNY Mellon then spent time as a loading dock master. At the moment, I’m working an after-school program called Abundant Waters, located in PS 51. I teach art to 4th and 5th graders.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
It’s any time I bike through the city — the rush, the people, the buildings, the change in scenery. You can never be bored biking in New York. It’s freedom to me.

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love Hell’s Kitchen so much that I named myself based on it. I love the diversity, the people and community. We live in the heart of the city, the literal melting pot of people fitting with so many bars and restaurants all around us. We have the coolest neighborhood name in New York City, period. 

Hell’s Kitchen was a hidden gem growing up, still is. People outside of Hell’s Kitchen didn’t know about it. Some didn’t even know people lived there. When pushed back against the corner we come together stronger than ever. One day, I hope to be called a Hell’s Kitchen legend.

Shellz Kitchen loves the diversity, the people and community in Hell’s Kitchen. Photo: Naty Caez

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
My art and imagination is my superpower. You may even see me walking or biking around Hell’s Kitchen with a MF Doom mask on. Makes me feel like a superhero sometimes.

His “The Kitchen’s Open” Instagram account documents the neighborhood.

What else should we know about you?
I’m a visual artist. I work with illustration, paintings and markers. I also have a community page called The Kitchen’s Open on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. I document the neighborhood, interview people and preserve the memories of stores, restaurants and places that are not in Hell’s Kitchen anymore, while also welcoming new businesses in our community. This is my gift to Hell’s Kitchen.

Shellz Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th)
The first time I walked past it I was a li’l kid, and I can just recall the aroma. You can smell something sweet, hot and fresh from the other side of the block. As you get closer, it drags you by your nose like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. You see people making it from the window outside and once you walk in and see the options of pie you’re at a loss. My go-to will forever be the classic old fashioned apple pie. Eat it cold, room temperature or hot and it’s delicious. I’d walk down that street on purpose just to smell it.

PDL Vintage — 441 W49th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
A new vintage thrift store I really like on 49th between 10th and 9th Ave. Good prices, fun and classic wears. The store is really cool and the owner is a really good guy.

DeWitt Clinton Park — 11th Ave and W54th Street
The central hub to see all the friends you grew up with in the neighborhood. It’s where I trained with my uncle as a kid to be better at basketball. The neighborhood BBQ spot in the 90s. It’s love and family in that park. It’s where friends regrouped after the pandemic and became a stronger community.

Big Apple Market  — 577 9th Avenue (bw W41/42nd St)
I learned how to food shop by myself there. My grandma and mom would drag me and teach me about the shopping deals. Big Apple Market became fun, it had character. From walking through the plastic curtain doors to walking into the freezer room to being cool with the cashiers. I’m proud to see how far they came and where they are now. Can’t beat those deals.

Sonny’s 10th Ave Meat Market — 758 10th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
My grandma would take me here as a kid. The meat market just felt special, like stepping into a moment in time. Seeing all kinds of meats that you can cook, watching my grandma order her cuts and seeing the butcher’s artistry cutting it up to your liking. Then grabbing your ticket and paying.

Scruffy Duffy’s — 639 10th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
My go-to bar in Hell’s Kitchen. The vibe is always nice, chill, music is always to my liking. One moment it’s hip hop the next it’s classic rock that everyone can sing to. Bartenders are your best friends and the atmosphere with the art it’s perfect to me… I do miss when they used to make pizza. My favorite was a pizza called The Conflicted with prosciutto, OMG!!! That changed my pizza world. Singo night is missed too [COMING BACK WEDNESDAYS IN SEPT ] but still a great bar for a good time.

Superior Gourmet Marketplace — 555 10th Avenue (bw W40/41st St)
It’s my go-to Deli. So many food options, so many sandwich combinations. I love the chicken chipotle hero from the avocado section. The people there are really nice. Hamza — a really good man I’m happy to call a friend — runs that store to a T. Everything on point.

Her Boba — 457 W50th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I was never a bubble tea guy but they single-handedly changed that. It’s been great this summer. Outside, two beautiful looking motorcycles. Walk inside and it’s beautiful, with big plants that make you cozy and welcomed. 

Totto Ramen — 464 W51st Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
PORK BUNS!!! The ramens are delicious but the pork buns — I’d eat one seven days straight if I could, and enjoy every one as if it was the first.

HK Fridge — 645 10th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
What makes me happy about it is that it shows the love and care we can give to a complete stranger. Unselfish love for others. Taking the time to make food and leave in the cupboard for someone hungry is the beautiful, selfless act of kindness you can do. Makes me proud to be in this neighborhood.

Sheldon (left) at a Happy Hour cleanup with The Litter Legion. Photo supplied.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
After the pandemic I wanted to make a change. I got out of my bubble and got to know my neighbors in Hell’s Kitchen more. I took a chance to talk to strangers I would pass by on the daily. I’ve come to find out that all of them love Hell’s Kitchen and are amazing human beings. Some are making huge steps just like myself in making those changes too. Like The Litter Legion, groups of neighbors that come out and clean our streets for free. OneCoHK, a community space that serves the people of Hell’s Kitchen. Like helping make sandwiches for the HK Fridge. Love Day and BLR in Clinton Park. A group of friends that put together a fun and organized way to play pick up basketball, and provide a safe space and brotherhood for the locals of HK. I’d like to thank W42ST for keeping our stories alive and giving us an outlet and opportunity to shine in your magazines and news. 

You can follow Shellz on Instagram @shellz_kitchen. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.

Join the Conversation


  1. I am happy to see Shellz Kitchen featured here. His art (I have the Hell’s Kitchen T-shirt, and a Burger Bomb: t-shirt in a burger box which I’m saving for posterity, lol) is original and collectible. Shellz is upbeat, creative and a very caring human being….and, a long-time family friend. Keep it UP! Shellz!

  2. Dear Sheltz,
    Born in HK, I can give you a few stories about a major meeting place that no longer exists, and it would be my pleasure. You can contact me @ 516-808-1474 or 516-608-5517.
    Keep on truckin’ dear; you’re doing such a service, Mary Lucich

  3. I’ve seen this kid around the 9th avenue festival recording with his friends and having fun. I like when this site highlights the youth who grew up here, especially someone who represents a demographic not often covered.

  4. I am proud to call she’ll kitchen my family, He is my nephew. He was so special and unique from a child that I called him “ uncle shel”. I felt that he was very caring and aware of others and their feelings from young. I am proud of the youngman he continues to grow into and his art work is out of this world! Continue to inspire , you are a legend in my eyes, love always uncle LornE

  5. One of the greatest to do it, his love for his community is inspiring, moving ppl through his art, and giving ppl a voice and a platform to share their story’s. You deserve the spotlight ! Only up from here!

  6. I love that this young man has been living in Hell’s Kitchen since before he was one-year old, and has remained loyal to his neighborhood by remaining here. He is a REAL New Yorker!!! God Bless Him and His Folks!

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