Introducing Chef Donald Smith, a true embodiment of culinary excellence and community engagement. Hailing from the vibrant city of New Orleans, the heart of Creole and Cajun culture, Chef D’s journey transcends the kitchen. Founder of Chef D Services, he’s deeply involved in community initiatives, a King of the 2023 Mardi Gras Season for Krewe of NOMTOC, and a trailblazer with Chef D’z Fine Dining Restaurant and Chef D’z Grab n Go in Arkansas, the latter marking his distinction as the first African American entrepreneur in town. Beyond his culinary feats, Chef D is an author, global traveler, and visionary entrepreneur who dares to seize opportunities others might shy away from. With a unique ‘SwagHer,’ he infuses his signature style into his dishes, creating a feast for the eyes and the plate. In this captivating interview, Chef D shares insights about his culinary journey, inspiring influences, and his passion for expressing emotions through food. From his impactful community endeavors to his entrepreneurial ventures, Chef Donald Smith’s unstoppable spirit and innovative approach truly exemplify a remarkable and dynamic entrepreneur.
Christina: What is your SwagHer? What makes Donald, Donald?
Chef D: When it comes down to Lukie/Chef D, my SwagHer is my fashion. I’m not stepping in any kind of way believe that (in my Nola voice). Most people will call me cocky, mean, or arrogant, but I call it confident. I bring my style into my kitchen for a plating presentation. You eat with your eyes first, so I SwagHer my plates.
Christina: How old were you when you knew you wanted to become a chef?
Chef D: I actually started cooking at the age of 7. When I got out of high school, I tried different jobs. When I moved back to California while working as a shipping and receiving manager, I thought about going to culinary arts school. I was in my mid 20’s then, so that’s where it started.
Christina: Who are some of the more notable people you have cooked for?
Chef D: I have cooked for some amazing folks. In 2002, I became Bishop Jerry W. Macklin’s (COGIC) personal, campus, and jurisdiction chef. That opened many doors for me to cook for some of the gospel’s greatest such as the Clark Sisters, Rance Allen, Shriley Caesar, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Marvin Winans, the late Bishop G.E. Patterson, Barry Bonds, the chalpin for the Chicago Bulls, and many others. While working in the corporate world, I’ve cooked for the New Orleans Saints, San Jose Sharks, O’Jays, Miquel, Delta Sigma, I was a catering chef l for the President of Intel Corporation, and many others.
Christina: Tell us about Yes Spices. Why did you decide to create your own spice line?
Chef D: I started doing my own spices as gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day at a brunch I hosted in Oakland for several years. When I moved back to New Orleans, I decided to go all the way with it. I research a few different manufacturers to come up with the right one. Yes Chef Gourmet Spices hit the market in 2019.
Christina: Who or what inspires you?
Chef D: My mother is the biggest inspiration in my life. She is basically the only one in the whole world who has always been there, supported me through thick and thin, and motivated me to keep reaching to achieve my goals. She taught me to see to my dreams and inspired me to achieve through the endeavor.
Christina: Complete the sentence. Food is…
Chef D: Food is a way for me to express my feelings. The compassion and love put into my dishes make people feel the love I put into the food. I’m not just feeding their taste buds, I’m feeding their soul.
Christina: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Chef D: There are some big things on the horizon for Chef D. At this season of my life, I’m walking in silence because sometimes the people that say that are praying for you are preying on you. Just keep your eyes on me. Like I always say, “Where New Orleans meets the World.” I can be in your city next. Continue to follow me on social media. I’m so grateful for you and this platform. Thanks again, and God Bless.
Connect with Chef D below:
Facebook: Donald Lukie Smith