A Man, A Plan, and Grandma’s Meatballs
Chef, creator, and CEO of 99EATS, LLC Derrell Smith opens up about his journey and passion for meatballs and how his grandmother inspired him to pursue his true purpose.
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?
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 ðŸ™‚
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.