Dion Millender is a self-taught private chef who started his own culinary business, Shaboys, after graduating from high school in 2005 and has been hired by people across the country. He turned heads with his crispy appetizers while at Firestone High School, prompting the former principal, Ken Jones, to taste the egg rolls he had prepared for his Working Family class.
Millender had researched the dish and got the ingredients from an Asian market. Everyone including Jones loved his egg rolls. “I fell in love with pretty much the reaction I got from cooking,” Millender told Beacon Journal. “That’s really what sparked my interest.”
In 2018, he turned his passion into a business after he had just won the LaunchTown LaunchChef Award, a competition of three people each catering a get-together on separate days. He used the prize money he got from the competition, in addition to his savings, to start his cooking business.
Before starting Shaboys, he had a job at Ohio Savings Bank but didn’t like it. Eventually, he got fired. Today, his culinary business is among the best in the states courtesy of “word of mouth” and social media. He recalled sending hip-hop legend Fat Joe a private message on Instagram and the response he got encouraged him to approach other celebrities such as Browns linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., shortly after the Browns had signed him as an unrestricted free agent in March 2021.
“I said, ‘Welcome to Cleveland. Let me know if you ever need a private chef,’” Millender recalled. According to him, Walker decided to give him a try to cook for cornerback Greg Newsome II’s May 18 birthday.
“Everybody loved the food, it was a great experience and I’ve been working with [Millender] ever since,” Walker said. “I’m a regular now.”
Today, his celebrity clients include Montana Love, Cavs legend Campy Russell, Cavalier’s team dietitian and nutritionist Kylene Bogden, Shanique Drummond of the Bravo reality show Married to Medicine: Los Angeles as well as Browns players.
“I don’t cook from technique. I cook from love. I cook from smell. I cook from how I feel, so you can tell the difference when you taste it. [I want customers to think], ‘This person really put a lot of thought and care into this process,’ as opposed to just going straight by the book and just cooking strictly by the book,” said Millender.
Meanwhile, the entrepreneur has been contracted to cater Thanksgiving meals for the Cavs on their flight to Milwaukee on November 25, 2022.