“Bun B basically convinced me to take the cooking thing more seriously,” says Derrick “Chef Teach” Turton, a Brooklyn-raised former music industry player who’s switched lanes to running the hot spot World Famous House of Mac food truck and catering venture down in Miami. True to his hip-hop roots, when rappers like Yo Gotti, Fat Joe, and the A$AP Mob pass through the 305, it’s Chef Teach they’re hitting up for Caribbean soul-food treats.
After originally attending culinary school, Chef Teach discovered that working in a commercial kitchen wasn’t for him, prompting him to move into the music business. From there, he wound up managing Pitbull for 13 years while also holding down a role at the Polo Grounds label that claims A$AP Rocky among its roster. But after his father passed away three years ago, Chef Teach “circled back to food” as thoughts about creating his own self-sufficient legacy entered his mind. “While I hated cooking as a profession, I've always loved cooking; it's been therapeutic for me,” he says.
Enter Bun B, who struck up a friendship with Chef Teach after they bonded at barbecues that starred the latter’s signature lobster mac and cheese—a dish the Houston-based Bun quickly became infatuated with. While rolling through Miami as part of the Gumboil 3000 celebrity motor rally, Bun asked Chef Teach to lay on a spread of food in his hotel room for his guests.
“Bun told me to watch their reaction once I’d set the food out,” Chef Teach recalls. “They came in like, 'Yo, where did you buy this food from? It’s awesome!' At that point, Bun pulled me to the side and said, “You see what I'm saying? You're bullshitting if you're not taking it more seriously because you’ve got a serious talent.”
“That was my a-ha moment and I gave Bun my word that I was going for it.”
After Bun’s intervention, Chef Teach took the plunge and laid down $9,000 for his first food truck and launched the World Famous House of Mac on May 2nd of last year outside the hip-hop producers Cool & Dre’s recording studio in Miami. The mac and cheese-centric menu has since become a hit with locals and visiting hip-hop artists, who line up to sample twists on the mac-and-cheese standard that include additions like buffalo chicken, beef and broccoli, and even a Cordon Bleu homage that involves turkey ham and a roux with Dijon mustard.
From tailoring a strict pescatarian diet for ASAP Mob, to the kinship with his mentor Uncle Luke, we caught up with Chef Teach to learn about the fruitful synergy of hip-hop and cooking.
When Bun B persuaded you to cook for a bunch of his friends at the Gumball 3000 event, what did you serve up?
It was things like grilled jerk chicken wings. I also did lobster mac and cheese, five cheese truffle mac and cheese, seasoned roasted corn, and some rice and peas. I remember Bun would always call me up when he was in Miami asking me to bring him some lobster mac to the studio. It became like a ritual.
Why did you choose to launch a food truck focused on mac and cheese?
Well my background is Trinidadian so my family makes macaroni pie, but when I went to culinary school they told me how to make the mac and cheese with the roux and cheese sauce. So I'd call my style Caribbean soul food, and I kind of mix styles. When I’d make my mac and cheese at barbecues at my house, that's one of the things people would go crazy over, to the point where when [Poe Boy Entertainment’s] E-Class opened Finga Lickin', he was trying to buy my recipe for mac and cheese.
You cater events and video shoots for a lot of rappers. How did that opportunity come about?
Everything just happened organically. I've been really blessed 'cause I'm on the cusp of both worlds and I have real relationships with these artists, and I've really cooked for them. It started with cooking in the studio for them. They’d call up and ask me to bring over food, and now it’s turned into something I’m doing commercially. When you see Yo Gotti, NORE, and Fat Joe, they're my friends—it's not just Instagram content. I've been around artists so long I'm professional and it's not like groupies. So catering for the artists happened organically. They come to the truck, they taste the food, they have an event coming up and they want some Caribbean soul food, and I'm the guy they call.
Beyond Bun B, you’ve also worked closely with Pitbull. What are his food tastes like?
Actually, the last thing I did for Pitbull was the"Fun" video he did with Chris Brown—I catered for the whole set. It's funny how it’s come full circle—me and Pit have actually been talking about him coming in as an investor in one of my restaurants.
What do you like to serve up for Pitbull?
Pitbull eats more healthy now, but when I cooked for him on set I did this coconut pineapple rice: the rice is inside of a pineapple with Thai chicken on it. He loved that. When he signed his deal to Sony, I cooked some stuff at his house—I cooked more hearty food for him then, some kind of seafood alfredo.
What sort of menu did you come up with when you catered for A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob?
Well A$AP Rocky, that’s like my little brother there. You know they're all pescatarians? They don't eat any kind of meat so I always have to try to find creative ways to do different variations of seafood for them.
What’s been the most prestigious event you’ve catered?
The Venus and Serena Williams Invitational was the biggest one we've done so far. It was two days of events and the first day was finger food 'cause they had this dance competition. We did chicken and waffle skewers, turkey burger sliders. The second day was different stations, so I did everything from turkey bacon wrapped scallops to all the different macs, and grilled lobster tails. Plus Venus loves tacos so I did some with pulled chicken tacos, ground turkey, and smoked turkey legs.
Your Instagram account also shows a photo of you with Uncle Luke, who you call your “mentor.”
Yeah, Uncle Luke gave me my first job in the music industry, back when Pit was signed to Luke’s label at the time. We went on tour and that's how we got cool. When he got out of his contract, I'd started a new marketing company, but Luke was the first person to give me a shot and taught me a lot of stuff about how to work records and really understand the market and these DJs and program directors. That was right when I came off my job at Red Lobster.
Luke comes to my barbecues at my house. We're really good friends. Last time, I think it was 4th of July and it was really just jerk chicken, the mac and cheese, we did turkey burger sliders. But Luke actually cooks too. His profession at one point in life was as a chef.
Has Luke told you any kitchen tips or techniques?
I never really got a chance to get on there and do nothing with him, but I went to a barbecue for Game 7 [ of this year’s NBA Finals] at his house and he cooked steaks.
If you could make a signature mac and cheese for Uncle Luke, what would be in it?
A lot of [chicken] breast, ha ha, Luke is definitely all about the breasts!