Build good habits. Grit isn’t an environmental thing, its acceptance of who you are and never looking back. Consistency is an important habit to build. You can never stop because it’s hard. Always know where you’re going. You always give 100% when you know where you’re going; it makes getting there easier. Be a lion. Get what’s yours, don’t be reactive. Get what you want out of life and pursue it with passion.
I had the pleasure to interview Darnell “SuperChef”Ferguson. Prior to being on national TV shows like the Rachael Ray show and Beat Bobby Flay, Darnell was living out of his car and in and out of jail. But Darnell used the culinary arts as a motivational tool to change his life for the better. In 2012, Darnell began a series of pop-up restaurants in Kentucky serving breakfast within existing restaurants that only served lunch and dinner. This innovative approach led Darnell to open up his first ‘SuperChefs’ restaurant in 2015. Darnell’s specializes in breakfast with a unique style of “Urban Eclectic” cooking which blends together traditional flavors in untraditional ways with a creative presentation. The breakfast style restaurant is themed, designed and appropriately named after a superhero to represent the strong individuals we are as human beings and to acknowledge that everyone has the ability to be an everyday superhero. Unfortunately, just a few months into business, Darnell faced yet another life altering challenge when a fire broke out at SuperChefs that could not be controlled in time. Soon after the restaurant burnt down, Darnell received an outpouring of interest from celebrity chefs and television producers requesting he share his story with the world. The opportunities allowed Darnell to reopen SuperChefs and to share his gratitude for his blessings by continuously giving back to the community. Darnell teaches kids, communities, and those in need how cooking can be a positive and creative outlet by employing teens, young adults, and those in need.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
I have always admired and looked up to Emeril Lagassé. He was organized and his kitchens were structured and put together. Everything was chaotic outside of my household growing up, so I liked that this profession was structured. Everything had a place in the kitchen. I went to vocational school in high school where I would go to regular classes for two hours and take cooking classes the rest of the day. My teacher, Ms. Cleary, was very influential in that time of my life. She was the first person to tell me I was great at something. She gave me a potato and showed me knife skills and after the first time I did it, she told me I was talented and that was the first time I felt like I could really do this.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I faced a lot of hard times. Just getting into culinary school was a fight. I almost had to play football in college in order to go to school because I didn’t have good enough grades to get into any school I wanted. I had no financial aid and nobody in my family was in the position to help me financially. So, I attended night school in order to go to college. When everybody was going to class, I was going to work and when everybody was coming home, I was going to class. It was really hard. By the time I was living in my car, I had already made the decision of where I was going. I knew what I was going to do with my life. A while later, I signed my first lease on a restaurant, however, one investor bailed. I would say that getting on my feet was the hardest part. The struggle made me realize that it doesn’t matter what happens once you get to the other side of it. I learned that a bad attitude will only prolong the bad times. Once I grew up and realized who I was, I realized what I could do.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I got the drive to continue from getting knowledge. Once I began reading, attending seminars and opening my mind to different things, I realized that no matter the path, things were going to be difficult. When you study successful people, they all have hard times in common. I try to compare myself to great people, and I know if I want to be great, I have to go through the hard times. It was enlightening.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
I never forgot where I came from. I always remember the times I spent dishwashing and line cooking. I put in the hard work that nobody wanted to do, and I outworked everybody; I felt like nobody wanted something more than I did. My mentality was: if its mine, I’m going to take it. It’s different when you’re doing what you’re made to do; this was my purpose; I was going to do what nobody else was willing to do.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
I’m doing very good today. I feel really good, like it’s time for me to start sharing. What I mean by that is that I have started expanding and showing people what we’ve been doing and now it’s time to start sharing knowledge and skills with people. Its about execution now so I’m very excited about things to come.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- Build good habits. Grit isn’t an environmental thing, its acceptance of who you are and never looking back. Consistency is an important habit to build. You can never stop because it’s hard.
- Always know where you’re going. You always give 100% when you know where you’re going; it makes getting there easier.
- Be a lion. Get what’s yours, don’t be reactive. Get what you want out of life and pursue it with passion.
- Do the things you don’t want to do and learn everything you can. Everybody has the opportunity to be successful most people don’t have the knowledge.
- Be a thermostat not a thermometer. Set your own tone, but don’t react to everything that’s happening. Instead, be the reason why they’re happening.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
Pastor Chad — he did things for me in ways I’ve never seen before. When I lost my first restaurant opportunity due to the investor pulling out, I was prideful and didn’t want to tell anyone. While at a men’s group meeting that Chad was leading, I told him about the investor and the men in the group offered to split my debt. Chad told me, “you’re a chef but it’s not who you are, that’s what you do. Your identity is not in being a chef, it’s in being a child of god. Let people into your life.” He really helped open my mind.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I use my success for people. I try to give back and mentor kids. Kids need to be inspired. If I make it, then everybody can make it. I capitalize on my opportunities and I know I’m blessed, but I also have faith in God’s people
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on opening more restaurants. My hope is that they will be a place to meet people and connect. I’m also hoping to get my candied bacon and candied turkey bacon, “Bacon Boys”, in grocery stores soon.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My advice would be to “be what you say”. If you want to have an influence of your staff, don’t tell them to be something you’re not. Don’t tell them to be on time if you’re always late. Don’t tell them to clean something that you wouldn’t clean. Don’t expect something from someone that you’re not willing to do.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to create a movement that would show people who they really are and their true identity. There’s so much knowledge in knowing who you are. When you know who you are, there is no doubt about anything else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have this one saved — “the preparation is always longer than the celebration”. The Chinese bamboo tree grows from a nut, if you water the plant each day for 7 years, it will never sprout. 6 months later it will grow 30ft. Did it take that tree 7 years or 6 months to grow? It’s the preparation.
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