We had the good fortune of connecting with Derricka Clayton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Derricka, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I always had a curiosity and interest in becoming a business owner. The flexibility, empowerment, and challenge intriguied me. For 20 years, I worked in corporate america because that is what I was taught to do. However I always wondered what it would be like to own my own business. In January 2019, my life took a drastic change. My ex-husband/co-parent of our autistic teen daughter passed away unexpectedly, then 2 weeks later my contract ended with my job. I went into a deep depression and was in the darkest place in my life. I didn’t know what to do or how I was going to move forward. I prayed over my entire situation and had the epiphony to use my hobby and passion for cooking as my career. I came from the tech industry and have been an individual contributor as well as people management so I’m used to wearing several hats. I wanted to be the master of my craft so I enrolled in culinary school at Escoffier School of Culinary Art and graduated with high honors. With balancing school, single parenthood, and slowly building my business during a pandemic, times got hard, however it made realize how strong and disciplined I really was.
Starting my own business is one of the best decisions I ever made. Just to be extremely transparent, I made a Facebook post literally 10 years ago, January 12, 2011 to be exact, I posted “Watching Top Chef… I wish I could be on that level of cooking :)” I had completely forgot I posted that until I saw it in my Facebook memories and realized I literally manifested my own dreams!!
I fell in love with myself and who I have grown to become. I sincerely realized that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to and blessings have been coming my way ever since.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I consider myself more of a “Culinary Artist” versus a Chef. What sets me apart is my creative eye when it comes to plating my dishes while ensuring all flavors and textures make sense. People eat with their eyes so I pride myself in making sure that my food looks amazing! My plating would not be where it is today without hard work, constant research of ideas and different cooking/baking techniques as well as inpired dishes that I simply wanted to elevate or put my own spin on. Having my own unique style does help set me apart from others in this industry. This was not a simple process as I had to make decisions and sacrifices in order to keep my mind focused and creative as much as possible, which is not an easy balance. It’s so important to not only work hard, but play hard. Take time off, do something you enjoy, travel, rest. That was the most valuable lesson I learned as an entreprenuer. It helps keep you sharp and your ideas fresh. My ultimate goals are to own an event venue or restaurant serving Elevated Southern/Creole cuisine to help share my roots as well as my story. I would also like to help other up and coming chefs reach their goals by providing them with tools and be a resource to them to help them become successful. I want us all to win!!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Some of the places I would have us visit would be the Dallas Farmers Market, Shops at Plano West, Texas Live, Roots Southern Table, Pangea, Brunchaholics, Klyde Warren Park, and explore any community events going on in the DFW area.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to praise God first and foremost for His grace, mercy and continued blessings He has showered me with. Without Him, I am nothing. Next, I would like to start my recognition with Chef Jessie Washington, owner of Brunchaholics. He gave me my very first shadowing opportunity at the Dallas Farmers Market assisting him with his famous Soul Food Burritos and other incredible dishes of his. He also would assist in helping me level up with doing Pop Up Events during the pandemic as well as other large scale opportunities to help get me exposure and recognition in the Dallas Food Scene. I would like to highly recognize Chef Kevin Johnson with Taste by Chef Kevin, my culinary mentor who literally took me in and allowed me to shadow him at all of his events, providing me culinary tips, educating me regarding the business side of things and being a solid support system being in this field. I’m so honored to be your protegé. Also, I’d like to recognize Chef Meika Johnson aka Chef Mimi J who has taught me the fun side of work and how to monetize using social media platforms. This is key when you are building passive income to support your business. Shout out to Chef Ashley Henderson for also giving me the opportunity to shadow her on some of her events and inspiring me with some of her dishes and plating skills. Girlfriend is a plating beast! Definitely recognizing Chef Jace Frazier who has become my friend and foodie bestie where we can always hold each other accountable and level each other up. My shout outs would not be complete without recognizing our hometown Top Chef All Star Chef Tiffany Derry. I literally followed her, Tre Wilcox, Carla Hall and other amazing chefs from the show, but with Tiffany, I always admired her Southern “down home” personality as well as her business mind. She has been such an inspiration to me to see another woman of color totally rock it on the show as well as with her 2 restuarants. When she offered me the opportunity to shadow her and be her sous chef from time to time, I literally cried tears of joy!! I appreciate her beyond words. I would like to recognize my sous chef Michael Zambo, Chef Meyaki, Mariama, and Chef William Fitzgerald who have helped me, shadowed me and gave me the ability to pass down tips and educate them in the culinary industry as well. I want us all to WIN and SUCCEED!! Finally, I gotta recognize my baby girl who’s no longer a baby… My sweet daughter Kamryn. Kam has helped me every since the day I decided I wanted to work for myself. She is always willing to help me prep for events, load or unload my truck, wash dishes… all while supporting me and cheering me on to do a great job for every service I have. I dedicate everything I do to her. She is my REASON. She is my WHY I do what I do.