Thirty-two year-old Darnell Ferguson struggled with education, incarceration, homelessness and a lack of self-control, but he braved them all to become a successful chef.
Born in Philadelphia and relocating with his family to Columbus, Ohio when he was young, Ferguson had it tough throughout high school. He was not a great student but he realized he had a talent when he decided to switch high schools to enroll in a vocational school for culinary arts.
“I was failing out of high school, then I ended up switching high schools to a vocational school. So I went to vocational school for culinary arts and thought that if I don’t like it, at least I’ll be able to eat good…
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“That was also at the time when Emeril [TV celebrity chef] was huge and I liked what he was doing, so that was one thing that really caught my eye… I liked the uniforms, the professionalism, I liked everything that wasn’t like what I was used to,” he was quoted by Urban Maxx in 2015.
Ferguson, at that moment, realized that he had finally found his niche – to become a chef – but this would come with so many difficulties.
After graduating from vocational school and entering Sullivan University in Louisville KY in 2005, Ferguson found that he was only eligible for partial academic funding. Not being able to afford, Ferguson had to take some evening courses and, at a point, he even thought of dropping out due to the disappointments and frustrations.
Nevertheless, following his hard work, he was chosen to be a part of the 2008 Olympic Team in Beijing China and was one of only two black students chosen out of thousands.
But the financial difficulties persisted and Ferguson was compelled to sell drugs on the side to make ends meet throughout his time in school. He soon grabbed an Associate degree in Culinary Arts when he graduated from Sullivan University.
Then what he probably feared happened. After school, instead of pursuing his dreams of becoming a chef, he continued to sell drugs on the streets. Within a period of three months, he got arrested eight times. He lost everything he had and this rendered him homeless.
“The last time getting locked up, I remembered being in class and them talking about being a statistic and how once you get in the system you can’t get out… I started thinking that now I’m the guy that I didn’t want to be…
“That’s when I told myself that I was going to get serious about something I know that I can do, which is cooking…” he said.
Ferguson started working as a chef in different restaurants throughout Louisville but his lack of self-control affected his work. He even got fired at one of the local restaurants where his anger situation nearly became physical.
Unemployed for a year, Ferguson started attending church and that was where he realized that he needed to make certain changes in his life.
“I had anger issues… the big issue was that I was controlled by it… you could say one little thing to me and I would snap because I didn’t have control over myself… so therefore we would get into it all the time… I became so tired that I asked someone if there was a church around here that I could go to…
“I went to Southeast Christian and ever since then everything changed for me. I started going to church, started reading about God because for me, I didn’t know God was real… so that for me was a shock… I wish I would have known this a long time ago but I wouldn’t have listened then, even if you told me… that’s just the truth about it.”
Having worked on himself, particularly, his temper, Ferguson spoke with a friend about leasing space in his restaurant to enable him to create a “pop-up” business where he could serve breakfast.
Ferguson, having been called “Super-Chef” throughout his cooking career and during Beijing Olympics, named his “Pop-Up” SuperChefs.
The business soon started booming and within a few months, other restaurants approached him to open a “Pop-Up” in their restaurants.
In 2015, Ferguson partnered with his friend, Ryan Bryson, to open their own restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, called SuperChef’s Breakfast & More, but that location got burned down, according to blackbusiness.com.
Ferguson has, however, opened three more restaurants – two in the Columbus, Ohio area and a new one in Louisville, Kentucky and he is doing great as an entrepreneur.
In 20015, he gave out these Words of Wisdom: “The journey is the success. Most people think the destination is the success. Don’t let today be taken for granted… Enjoy the journey… Everyone is so focused on the destination… You have to enjoy what’s happening because the growth is the best part.”