Chef Focus: Damian Brown a Culinary Powerhouse!

Combine ambition, skill, drive, and a burgeoning Internet fame with real culinary skill and you have the recipe that has led to the success of our guest this week.  Chef Damian Brown hails from the DC area and we are proud to welcome him to the Brownstone family.  In just a few years he has gone from virtual unknown to one of the go to chefs for Chocolate City’s celebrity events.  With more Instagram followers then you can believe he has become a culinary force and definitely one to watch.  Check him out below.

KP: We found you on Instagram where you have an astounding number of followers, like over 22,000 people following you. How did you get started cooking? How did you get to where you are now?

Damian: Well, it's a long story. I used to hate cooking actually, it was never my passion. My dream was to be an FBI agent or SWAT team member. My mom was a bounty hunter. So, I knew I did not want to do that.

KP: Your mom was a bounty hunter?

Damian: Yeah, she had her own bail bonds business called Madea Bail Bonds in DC. They were about to give her [a] TV show. She was the only female bounty Hunter in the area. But, I knew I didn't want to do that. That was when I was maybe 16 or so. I was living in Montgomery County at [the time] and some racist cop tried to accuse me of stealing a bike. He got in my face grabbed me by my neck and kept saying: “Stop lying! Stop lying!” Back then I used to have a very short temper. So I tried to hit him, and I didn't know I was surrounded by alot of cops. They threw me in handcuffs, but I didn't hit him so they just let me go. That changed my mind about the police and my view of all law enforcement. At that point I was lost I didn't know what I wanted to do. Because being an FBI or SWAT team [member] was all I [had] ever thought of.

My great-grandfather raised me [and I would go] over his house every weekend. We would sit and watch the food network channel and Discovery Channel all day every day. Every morning: “Damian, what you want to eat? Go grab the cookbook!”. [So] the first thing I ever made professionally was French toast. So, right now if anybody wants to challenge me to a French toast cook off I accept! (laughs)

From there my stepfather was like, “How come you just don't go to culinary school?” And I was like, “I just never thought of it.” So I went  and, I graduated the top of my class. But the funny thing is I had the highest grades in my class but I did it all with basically one arm. I had broken my wrist playing football while I was at lunch. But, I didn't tell anybody I just went back to school the next day. We had a big group project like making cakes and my team was counting on me. So I just had to suck it up and do it. I was shaking so bad but, got it done and got a B. And then I went to the hospital and they put a full on cast on me. From there I’ve just been kicking ass. From job to job moving up and moving up.

KP: After school did you just get out there and start doing your thing?

Damian: My mom and aunt grew up with the owner of the Half Note Lounge  (Editors Note: Half Note Lounge is a popular spot in the suburban DC area.) They were cool with the owners and got me in. I was the only one, actually still until now, the only one out of my class that got a job.

KP: When you decided that cooking and the culinary field were your goal what was the next step after the Half Note Lounge? What brought us to the point where you are now, let's be honest, you're an Instagram celebrity? People know and go to your page. You've been cooking for some of the local celebrities. How do you go from culinary school, the Half Note Lounge, to where now people know your name?

Damian: I got really aggressive. It's my competitive nature to just want to be the best. No matter what field I do I want to be the best. And I started to realize, every kitchen I worked in...I'm always the only black person in the kitchen. Or, in the entire restaurant...which can get weird sometimes. So, I want to try to make a name for myself and basically be the Martin Luther King of the kitchen. Try and break the ice and lead the way. Even though it's hard I'm going to do [it].

When it came down to Instagram first I started off with like 400 followers and was only getting maybe 12 likes. But then I started going on culinary pages and every time they would post something… See I'm giving away my secret right now! Every time they [would] post something I would follow every last person that would like the picture or [comment] first. I would follow anybody that would comment because that means that they’re active. You want active followers before anything. So I [would] do that all day every day for months. Then once you get 10,000 followers [do] a lot of different hashtags. So when they start shouting out your page that means more people see your page. So now every day I might get like 50 to 100 followers every day. That's if I don't do anything but, if I'm on there being active then I'll get more than that.

KP: What's the ultimate goal after catering? Do you want to become a celebrity chef? Is that your aspiration do you want to conquer the field?

Damian: I'm not seeking fame I just want to be the best. My real goal is I want to be on Chopped most people [who] get on that show have a really sad story. Like they're doing it for their grandmother and [then] they start crying and the next thing you know they win. I just want to get on the show and say I beat you...and that's it.

KP: Where can people go to get the Damian Brown culinary experience?

Damian: I'm pleased to be the executive chef at TAKODA Restaurant & Beer Garden in Washington, DC.  (Editor's Note: TAKODA has recently been profiled by The Washingtonian and is set to open in December 2015.)

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