A Man and His Meatballs

Derrell juggles many moving pieces as a chef, owner of catering company Amazeballs, and lends his talents as a food show host.

This Black History Month, Abby&Edna is honoring the past by looking to the future — spotlighting the burgeoning culinary pioneers who are making a name for themselves, while honoring who they are and where they come from.

This week, A&E spoke to Derrell Smith—CEO and founder of 99EATs—about the inspiration behind his company and his journey from NFL player to meatball maven.

What inspired you to create 99eats/amazeballs? How did you get started?

Before being let go from my job in advertising in 2017, I won a meatball competition in Brooklyn using my sauce recipe (The OG Sauce) which I developed while attending graduate school at Syracuse. From there, I began selling the meatballs in Smorgasburg (while still working full-time). April of 2017 I was let go from my job and decided to pursue my hustle full-time and haven’t stopped. 99EATS serves as the parent company of all things, while “Amazeballs” is specifically food.

How did you come up with the logo for your brand and what does it mean to you?



The logo is modeled after the women in my family, specifically my grandmothers.

The women in my family were my culinary inspirations and my earliest food memories took place in their kitchens. I made the logo in their likeness’ so that when people taste Amazeballs’ food, they are transported back to their grandmother’s kitchen, and remember the feeling they had when they ate grandma’s food. In my mind, that’s how we execute on our mission – by creating a feeling and sparking emotion that leaves you feeling the way you did when you left grandma’s house.

When did your love for food start? What’s your earliest memory of food?

My love of food started around 8 or 9 years old, my Mom let me cook dinner for the family (with no guidance). I broiled the pork chops until they chewed like leather, but the flavor was good! As long as the flavor was good, I could work with that, so I just kept practicing! The more I practiced, the more I fell in Love

Who inspired you to get in the kitchen?

Watching the women in my family cook, and them giving me small tasks like licking the cake bowl and washing the dishes. I just kept coming back and getting more tasks until my tasks became responsibilities, and so on.

What ‘s your advice to people who don’t think they belong in the kitchen or are cooking challenged?

Watch my cooking videos and shows so I can learn you something 🙂

Why is remembering and celebrating food pioneers important to you?

Because their spirit lives in us and flows through us and by remembering and celebrating their stories we add context as to why and purpose to our inherent power to create the world we want to live in, no matter the obstacles in our way.

99EATS is a virtual culinary brand with a mission to connect people through food, content and experiences. Prior to his culinary journey Derrell was an NFL player and advertising producer. He now lives in Los Angeles where he enjoys biking around the city and trying new foods.
Follow him on Instagram @Rellycrocker

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