Darian Bryan has come a far way from whipping up meals in a humble Clarendon village restaurant to tantalizing the taste buds of power brokers with gourmet creations.
Today, nine years after migrating to the United States, Bryan is the personal chef to a number of NFL and hockey league players, carving out a niche on the food circuit in Buffalo, New York. The dizzying heights represent a remarkable path to success that wasn’t first plotted when he was flipping burgers at Denny’s.
Bryan’s culinary journey began in the seaside village of Salt River. After attending Old Harbour Primary and José Marti High, he worked for two years with Jamaica Broilers before following in his mother’s footsteps to the United States.
Bryan recalled how at age 15 after his mother had left for America, he ran his mother’s bar and cookshop in Salt River while attending school.
“I would cook in the restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays after my mother migrated. My sisters would take care of the business while I am at school, but I was doing all the cooking,” he said.
After migrating to the US in 2012 at age 20, Bryan is now the personal chef to more than 15 NFL and NHL players.
Cooking was always his passion, having learned the art at his mother’s side.
Bryan first followed his dream by enrolling in culinary school at Erie Community College in Buffalo, where he settled after migrating. His next step was studying hospitality management at Buffalo State College, where he was voted most outstanding hospitality student.
After graduating, he honed his skill at a number of top-flight restaurants in the Buffalo area.
His life took a turn when he had a chance meeting with then Buffalo Bills cornerback Vontae Davis.
“I was working at this restaurant and he walked in. I did not know who he was, but I was happy to see another black person,” Bryan told The Gleaner.
“We started talking and he wanted to know who was the chef. I told him me, and he said he wanted me to cook for him, and so began my relationship with him.”
Word about Bryan’s gastronomic chops soon spread like wildfire and led to him becoming the personal chef to Bills running back Stephon Dicks. Soon he had more NFL and hockey stars eating out of his hands.
He caters to several of them outside of New York state when they head south to escape Buffalo’s cold climes in the winter.
Apart from wining and dining sports celebrities, Bryan is also the founder of The Plating Society, which provides pop-up catering – ad hoc settings where people want to meet outside formal restaurants.
Wearing his trademark fedora as he cooks and belts out Bob Marley songs, Bryan loves to provide new and exciting experiences for his guests, cultivating a cult following with large helpings of personality.
He has been a staple on the circuit, appearing at the Erie County Fair, as well as Top Taste Buffalo County Fair. He has won the Buffalo Iron Chef competition and placed second in the national Iron Chef championship.
LOYALTY TO MOTHER
Personal flair is as much a part of his aura as his flavour.
“I never wanted to be the average guy. I wanted to make my mom proud,” said Bryan.
Loyalty to his mother is a theme that runs through his life story.
Althea Allen still beams with pride at the mere mention of her son’s accomplishments.
“I always knew that he would accomplish a lot. Since he was small, he was always experimenting with cooking different dishes, so I am not surprised by what he has achieved,” Allen told The Gleaner.
Known as ‘Tilly’ back in Salt River, the single mom raised Bryan along with her five daughters.
“I always told him that he would do good. He has accomplished much, but he still has heights to climb,” she said.
The other lesson Allen said she taught Bryan was never to forget his roots.
Jessica Bryan, Darian’s wife, said that his success can be attributed to his hard work, drive, and his personality.
Mrs. Bryan, who handles the marketing, branding, and financials for the business, said that her husband’s easy-going, outgoing personality contributes handily to his magnetic appeal.
“I love working with him. His food is delicious. He has taught me about herbs and spices and how to use them to enhance meals. He has opened up a whole new world of foods to me, an American girl who existed on pizza and such,” she said.
A mother of two – Darian Jr and Nina –Mrs. Bryan said they will be opening their own Plating Society restaurant in May in the Buffalo area.
Chef Bryan urges Jamaican youth at home or in the diaspora to stay grounded. His advice to them is simple yet profound: Have a big vision, write down your goals, and plug away at them.
He encourages young people to find something they love doing and spend their lives going after it.
“I have many young people calling me asking about being a chef because it looks cool. The question I ask is, do you love cooking? If you don’t, then look for something you love doing,” Bryan told The Gleaner.
“Cooking is hard, and you must love doing it, or else you are going to move on when it gets tough.”