Sometimes it takes being stuck in a job you do not want to truly begin doing what you have always been meant to do. Derrick Turton, aka “Chef Teach“, widely known for Miami’s World Famous House of Mac, did not start his career in the kitchen. However, cooking has always been his first love and after being a music promoter for years, he decided to choose his passion and went for it.
Turton had a successful career as a music producer. He stumbled into the music industry after attending culinary school and decided to go with the flow. His first restaurant job after school left a bad impression on him and he digressed into club promoting.
He did many gigs rallying college students for parties and thought it was a better option than being huddled in a hot kitchen cooking. Club promoting eventually landed him his first ‘real’ job, and an encounter with Luther Campbell, the rapper, promoter, and record executive behind Luke Records, made him cross paths with the first artiste he managed, a then 17-year-old Pitbull.
However, The Trinidadian native always found a way to blow off steam cooking for the many artistes he worked with including Pitbull, Lil Jon, Yo Gotti, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Scrappy, among others. “Yeah, I’ve worked with tons,” the former club promoter said.
He hosted more than a few barbecues for his famous friends and family. Cooking has always been therapeutic, he said. Thus, whenever he got the opportunity on or off the road, he found ways to get creative in the kitchen.
When his father passed away in 2013, Turton asked himself some burning questions such as what his legacy will be when he also passes on. He was very close to his father and his demise greatly affected him.
It took a huge nudge from his rapper friend, Bun B, who had sampled his famous mac and cheese and lobster several times to make his first attempt at establishing himself as what we all now know him to be, ‘the mac and cheese whisperer.’
“Bun B was the first person to tell me that I needed to take my talent more seriously,” said Turton. “He told me if I didn’t at least try, I would never forgive myself later on in life. So, I took his advice and took the leap.”
But first, he wanted to immortalize his father in his brand for life by using a headshot of him in the 70s as his company logo. To him, it’s as though his father ‘is always watching over him.’
So, Turton got his first food truck in 2014, and has since built three stores across Miami serving his famous mac and cheese recipes such as the World Famous Five Cheese Truffle Mac, Jerk Chicken Mac & Cheese, Pizza Mac & Cheese, and the extra-decadent Seafood Mac & Cheese, which is topped with shrimp, lump crab, and a grilled lobster tail.
His meals have the Caribbean twist to them, especially his Jerk Salmon Pasta and jerk-spiced Fried Chicken Wings. “My family is Trinidadian and West Indian so we make macaroni pie, it’s more like a firm kind that you can cut a slice out of.
“The way that I make the mac and cheese are like a fusion of styles and cultures with the flavor and stuff that I would add or my family made and infuse into the roux. Then I started to play around with it.”
“What’s amazing about mac and cheese is there’s really no genre. Mac and cheese are white, black — young, old,” he explained to GMA.
The fusion of his American culinary training and his Island roots is what makes his mac so special. From the types of cheese to infuse to the seasonings, Turton offers something different from what many are used to.
The mac and cheese boss now makes more than seven figures and has moved from four employees to more than 40. The coronavirus pandemic has led him to be even more innovative with his craft. Aside from his A-list clientele including Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade, Turton began feeding first respondents at the height of the pandemic when no one dared to step into restaurants for fear of catching the virus.
He also began shipping his vacuum-sealed frozen dishes online and that brought in a new stream of income that he never anticipated. Chef Teach’s restaurant has four physical locations and they are now looking to employ the “ghost Kitchen” method of working out of kitchens without a storefront as part of his expansion plans.
The support from his friends and family is “bigger than money”, he said, adding that the encouragement is priceless.