Chef Donald J. Smith was born and raised in New Orleans, the heart and Soul of Creole and Cajun culture. He learned the ins and out of Authentic Creole Cuisine at the feet of hid mother and uncle. Specializing in Creole, Cajun, and Soul Food, he is the past owner of several restaurants as well as working preparing meals for various entities including convention, corporations, and feeling the homeless and less fortunate. He is an award-winning celebrity chef in his own way that has worked with some well-known athletes, musicians, and Some Gospel Great, his served as Bishop Jerry W. Macklin (2nd Presiding Bishop of COGIC International). He has traveled the world and interacted with other first-rate chefs from around the globe, he has had the rare opportunity of sharing his expertise and passion for good food with chefs from countries such as Brazil, Italy, and Spain. To enhance and broaden his knowledge and skills of Creole Cuisine and a little professional twist to it, he attended Louisiana Vo-Tech and Delgado Community College where he earned an Associate Degree and a number of certified in Culinary Arts. He now boasts 25 plus years of experience in culinary cuisine preparation.
LM: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
DS: I am a restaurateur, author, and mentor. I am the founder of Cooking for Life a nonprofit to work with the youth through culinary arts. I’m also the founder of the Urban Chef Alliance.
LM: Tell us about your business.
DS: Chef D’z Cafe opened in 2003 in Bay Area, since then has operated several restaurants under the same night in New Orleans and Arkansas. We are a full-service restaurant and catering service. Now we go under the name Chef D Services.
LM: What prompted you to start your business?
DS: In 2003 I was working for Aramark running five Cafe at Applied Materials. One evening I was riding around town and saw a restaurant for lease. I thought and prayed about it. When I went to work on Monday, I turned in my resignation. That was the beginning.
LM: Have you always aspired to be an entrepreneur?
DS: From a kid, I thought about being my own boss.
LM: What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur?
DS: Being an entrepreneur is hard work but it so rewarding
LM: What’s the worst part of being an entrepreneur?
DS: Is the possibility of failure
LM: Who’s your inspiration? Why?
DS: Chef Leon West. This guy has been my mentor for many years. I learned so much about the culinary world from him.
LM: List some of your greatest achievements
DS: As a chef, I’ve cooked for a number of local fundraisers and I led the Hurricane Katrina Relief where we worked to get twenty-five big trucks to travel from the bay to Hurricane affected areas including New Orleans and Texas.
2000 Culinary Person of the year at the Hilton Hotel
2007 Hospitality Person of the Year’s Gald Tidings COGIC
2018 ACF Best Chefs of Louisiana
2020 Nation Black Chef Association
LM: Name a time when things didn’t go right. What happened and how did you get past it?
DS: I remember on Mother Day’s my restaurant flooded. I had spent a lot of money and didn’t know what to do. I had a meltdown and just canceled the brunch. I asked God to get me the strength to care on.
LM: Where do you see your business in 3 years?
DS: In 3 years I would like to have my product nationwide. Another restaurant in Houston, DC, or Chicago area.
LM: What advice would you give a new entrepreneur?
DS: Never to give up on your Dream and Vision
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