South Florida native, Chef Danie found her love for cooking at an early age. She was just four years old when she got the inspiration to start up a pot and although she may not have known what she was doing at the time, it’s clear to see she has worked on her skills to master true perfection! Sheen Magazine had the pleasure of getting to know the international chef who has taken the world by storm!
“My journey is strictly off of passion.”
Tell us about yourself. What made you want to get into the culinary world?
Well, I am of Haitian and Dominican descent the island of Hispaniola is where my ancestors are from. Because I’m Caribbean, I would say a lot of basis of my food pretty much comes from the Caribbean, no matter if its Haiti, Jamaica, Bahamas, I also live in South Florida as well, so all of my flavors pretty much drive from where I’m at.
I’m like a fun-loving person, I’m very Zen, I love to meditate, I love yoga, I sage every time I feel like there is bad energy in my house or in my space. It is important that I’m aligned when I cook for someone else.
I got into the culinary world because of my mom, I would say. When I was younger, I was watching Little Bear and in the episode, he was making Birthday Soup. All he did was go to the refrigerator, take all the vegetables, threw it in a pot, filled it up with water, and he made this fantastic soup. I was four years old at the time and this is still vivid to me still. I remember running over to the stove, turned it on, took my little stool, got all the vegetables and pot, although I couldn’t do it much because I was so little. My mom who had just come home from work (she’s a nurse) fell asleep but her mom radar went off so fast! She ran into the kitchen. This was the point where I was at a crossroad because if she had disciplined me, I would probably hate food at this moment. She showed me how to make soup, we made it together, and that is one of the most memorable cooking experience that I have. I knew I fell in love with food because no matter how tired my mom was; she took the time to teach me something I was interested in. That is pretty much how I got into the culinary world.
Do you mind sharing your journey to where you are now?
I would say a lot of hard work! I was supposed to be a lawyer until after high school when I got a scholarship to go to the University of Miami and I went there. I didn’t like it at all so I took on a cooking class which I was the top of my class in high school. I was just honest with my mom and told her that I really wanted to be a chef. I went on and enrolled myself to Le Cordon Bleu but my mom told me I had to double enroll in school because I wasn’t going to let a scholarship go to waste. I did that an paid out of pocket for Le Cordon Bleu. Le Cordon Bleu won (laughs).
I started at the bottom of the bottom. I mean that by I was doing baby showers for whoever even wanted my services, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, and I was getting paid little to nothing but it felt good just to be able to put my food out there. That did give more word of mouth and I stumbled upon one client who for Christmas gave me a website! With the website, it gave me Google Ads to find new people and people began calling!
I was still getting some work but not so well. I was at a down point, New Year’s Eve was coming along and I created something called Ciroc Cakes. It’s where the cake actually has 30% alcohol or more in it. It’s not baked or anything, its all food science. You are actually getting the full strength of the alcohol. I posted it online and I was scared of copyright infringement (laughs) so I took it down real fast! Two days later, Ciroc reposts it and they reached out to me! They told me that they would be interested in having the Ciroc Cakes made whenever they were doing an event in Miami. I was very excited but it never happened. This got me to want to do more! It was a glimmer of hope that I needed to push me to do more. Although it didn’t happen with them, Pharrell saw the post and reached out to me, I started working with him for a year with Cream Liqueur. He was my first A-List client. After that year was up, the following Thanksgiving, P. Diddy called and he wanted the cakes for Thanksgiving! That is pretty much how this unravels. You really just have to keep going and never give up because even though there were empty promises made or glimmers of hope, you have to keep going! If I would’ve given up, none of this would’ve ever happened.
What has becoming a chef taught you about yourself?
Yes! I didn’t know how strong I was. In the same sense, it showed me how creative I was as well. Being a chef has opened all that up for me. I didn’t know that I was talented enough to gain the attention of the likes of Oprah or feed Beyonce, or cook for P. Diddy! I didn’t know before I became a chef that I was able to do stuff like that.
Do you think people underestimate the work put into being an international chef?
Absolutely! One of the biggest dilemmas that we deal with now as chefs, especially I would say chefs that are more humble. If you put yourself on a certain pedestal where certain people can’t get to you, certain people as in middle-class people who just want a great chef to come over but they might not be able to afford it. You have other people who come by overnight, who call themselves a chef just because they see the end result. There is so much more work put into it. You want to be sure that you understand components of food, what marries together, understanding different flavor components, nutritional values, and dietary restrictions. It’s more to it, there are a lot of people who are skipping the whole school aspect. They are underestimating the work that goes into becoming a chef, you have to grind for it! You can’t just call yourself a chef if you know how to make macaroni and cheese.
What is your all-time favorite thing to cook for others and why?
Anything Asian! I love Asian cuisine, it doesn’t matter where it’s from. My favorite food is from South Korea. I love putting the different fusion dishes together for my clients. I love anything Asian, it’s my absolute favorite! I actually speak a little Korean as well!
Can you tell us about a place you’ve traveled to where the food scene amazed you?
I think Bangkok has been my favorite place so far. Just going to the food market, the floating market, and seeing how food is so fresh and different amazed me. You know, like eating crickets (laughs) and grasshoppers was super cool, it just amazed me to see all the different things you can create! It broadened my horizon a little bit when it comes to food.
You have worked with numerous celebrities, has there been one that has left a special mark on you?
I would have to say, P. Diddy. His work ethic is amazing. This man really never gives up! He could have down moments at times but as soon as he recharges, he will definitely get back up and keep running. His resilience inspires me. He actually appreciates the hard work that I put in in the seven years that he’s known me. I appreciate it so much. There were moments where I really put in hard work, sweat, and tears into some of the stuff I would do. Working for him has taught me that no matter how high you are, you always have to appreciate everything and the people around you to make things happen.
What can we expect to see from Chef Danie in the future?
In the future, you will definitely see me a lot more on television. I’m finally coming out of my shell. I’m actually shy, people probably don’t know that! I’m breaking out of that shell and I’m going to stop ignoring all of these producers (laughs). I did one show with Cutthroat Kitchen and I have been a couple of features with VH1, however, I want to come out on my own and help some of my viewers in their kitchen. At this point in my career, the people that supported me the most deserve to be given back to. They are my superstars.
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Featured Image: Stephan S. at Treble Clef Media