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Greenville Business Magazine

Southern Cuisine by D Plans to Take Louisiana Cajun Cuisine Mobile

Aug 23, 2023 05:12PM ● By Eli Kibler

Darren Smith has always had a sizzling passion for cooking. Like many of the best chefs out there, Smith is a firm believer that love is the most important ingredient in food, and he makes that apparent with every dish he crafts.

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with three brothers and one sister, Smith spent a large portion of his young adult years moving around the country, searching for his purpose. Smith’s beginnings as a Cajun cook came when he began helping his mother prepare food in the kitchen at the age of 5 or 6. His mother, a wedding caterer and designer who also owns a Louisiana-style food trailer, served as the root of his culinary inspiration, preparing him for the passion he would truly rediscover near the end of his college career. After returning from university in California, Smith took up a position as a cook at Marriott Hotels, where he honed his skills.

“It was more of a fine dining experience,” he said. “I learned a lot there because I’m not a professionally trained chef. … I just call myself a cook, I don’t call myself a chef. I feel like that would be disrespectful because those guys trained in school for it. I just like doing it. I love what I do. It makes me comfortable and it’s my place to go to escape the world. But I didn’t want to always cook under somebody else.”

After marrying and moving to Greenville to be closer to his wife’s family, Smith took into account the city’s lack of Southern Cajun options and devised a way to bring Louisiana’s food to his new home in South Carolina. In 2021 he started his business, Southern Cuisine by D, LLC, and began a side hustle catering his Louisiana-cuisine for small groups and private events. He fuses his mother’s recipes with his own in order to create a refined set of meals that has something to offer for everyone.

Building on his adoration for food and catering, Smith is going mobile with his brand and is preparing to purchase a food truck to expand his reach and take advantage of Greenville’s recent financial and residential growth. His mission: feed as many people as possible and share his undying affinity for Louisiana-style dishes with all of Greenville.

Smith explained, “I never thought about a brick-and-mortar from the beginning because I think the food trailer is more modern now and it’s easy to reach a lot more people instead of having to have someone come to you all the time. … It’s all about convenience now. Most younger people want to grab-and-go and keep it moving.”

The truck’s menu will offer a selection of seafood gumbo, chicken gumbo, dirty rice, fried catfish, baked catfish, seared catfish, potato salad, and Louisiana-style soul food such as smothered chicken with gravy and rice. In addition, Smith also plans to use his signature cheesecake as the restaurant’s lone dessert, a confection which is sure to entice new customers into trying his other dishes.

Smith entered the Inaugural $30K Power Up competition, which gives entrepreneurs the chance to win between $5,000 and $15,000 to put toward their small businesses, in hopes of covering a portion of the initial startup cost for his plan.

Winning the top prize would allow Smith to have the preliminary funds necessary to purchase the trailer and equipment. “From the get-go, that is the most expensive thing. Food trailers and trucks have risen in price in the past two years. That is the biggest investment,” he explained.

By continuing to utilize social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok to market his food, Smith is certain that the switch to wheels will be a hit considering how successful the food truck sector of the food-service industry continues to be year-in and year-out. Prospects are even higher thanks to Greenville’s new ordinance that allows for food trucks to cater in the downtown area, thus opening up an even wider pool of events for vendors to work at.

“In the end, my ultimate aspiration is just to feed as many people as I can,” he said. “I love to cook. It sounds cliché, but it’s not about the money for me. Yeah, I’m going to make money doing my dream, but I want to feed people.

“I want to see the reactions on people’s faces when they eat my food. I want to hear any kind of feedback they have so I can make the dish even better. I just want to touch as many people as I possibly can with the culture that I have from down there. I want to introduce this food to people and reach the demographics that are unfamiliar with it, without having to go to Louisiana. That is the ultimate goal.”