How this chef came out of addiction to serve up his world-famous barbeque to celebs and presidents

Abu Mubarik July 03, 2022

Derrick McCray imagined being an NFL player and going to the Super Bowl. Instead, McCray got to the Super Bowl through a different route: as a chef. His Backyard BBQ & Seafood caught the attention of the NFL host committee when a West Palm Beach employee recommended his food truck and he was invited to the Super Bowl XLI in 2007. 

Since then, he has been the favorite chef for various NFL Super Bowl events including the Player’s Networking Event (PNE) which helps active and former athletes maximize opportunities during Super Bowl weekend. He has also attracted top celebrities like Serena and Venus Williams, Justin Timberlake, and presidents Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, according to Forbes.

“It feels like a miracle every year to be called up to the Super Bowl,” McCray told Sun-Sentinel. “We’re that David and Goliath story. We perform like Tom Brady and Drew Brees. We were long shots when no one knew who we were. We just had a barbecue pit, but when they put us on stage with the high society crowds, we perform at a high level.”

“We have worked with McCray’s Backyard Bar-B-Q & Seafood as the official chef of PNE for over a decade. Annually, NFL players and event attendees crave the McCray’s Backyard BBQ experience and always look forward to it every year” according to Guy Troupe, Founder & CEO, Player Networking Event.

McCray has been at his job for more than 15 years. He inherited the venture from his father and uncle. McCray’s Backyard Bar-B-Q & Seafood was founded by the McCray family in 1977. The company’s first location was off Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach but now has a home in Mangonia Park.

McCray was initially reluctant when his father asked him to run the family business. It was during the period he wanted to become an NFL player. After a stint playing for Florida A&M University, McCray went to Los Angeles and found himself homeless. He also became a cocaine addict and faced several near-death experiences. He subsequently returned to South Florida in the 2000s, got rehabilitated at a sober house and later went to live with his parents.

“I borrowed $100 from my mother and a grill from my dad, who wanted me to stay healthy,” McCray told Sun-Sentinel. “I started with a small grill but I’ve never been afraid to go after the big stuff.”

He eventually set up a barbecue pit at Palm Beach County strip clubs and has grown over the years to become a celebrity chef.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 1, 2022


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