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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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‘Amazing father, amazing husband, but in the kitchen, he’s a beast’

A look into the life of local boutique owner and Buffalo Bills players’ personal chef Darian Bryan

<p>&nbsp;Darian Bryan is a personal chef for multiple Buffalo Bills players.&nbsp;</p>

 Darian Bryan is a personal chef for multiple Buffalo Bills players. 

After a long day of practice, Stefon Diggs heads home with one thing on his mind: his empty stomach. 

Lucky for him, he doesn’t have to do the cooking himself; a sizzling steak is already being prepared by nationally-acclaimed chef Darian Bryan.

Bryan expected many things to come from his culinary career, but becoming a personal chef for several Buffalo Bills players was not one of them. 

Bryan’s culinary career began at age 12 in his home country of Jamaica. Every day, he helped his mom cook food for her shop. Three years later, his mom left him with the keys to the shop, and that’s when his passion for cooking took over. 

At age 20, he migrated to the U.S. and entered culinary school at Erie Community College, supporting himself with a cooking gig at Denny’s. 

Now, at 31 years old, he is the owner of his own boutique, The Plating Society, and a personal chef for multiple Bills players

“Food is love, and food brings people together,” Bryan told The Spectrum. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on, food is always involved, some way, somehow.”

When Bryan was growing up in Jamaica his family experienced hurricanes every fall, causing extensive damage to his home. 

During one storm, Bryan desperately ran outside of his house with a big piece of wood to board up his windows.

“I can’t afford for this to happen again to us,” he thought to himself.

His mom told him to get back inside; he complied. 

After the storm, Bryan and his family went outside to survey the damage. Trees had blown over. Everything was soaking wet. All of the goats, chickens and pigs in the area were dead.

His family would dry their belongings and sleep on wet beds. With no coal and wet wood, they couldn’t even start a fire to keep themselves warm.

But despite the wreckage, Bryan’s family and their neighbors found solace in cooking curry chicken for each other. 

That sense of community is part of the reason why Bryan and his team at The Plating Society dropped everything to cook for the victims of the May 14 shooting on Buffalo’s East Side and Winter Storm Elliott in December.

Within a week of the shooting, Bryan’s restaurant provided food to East Side residents and created a fundraiser for the families of victims, collecting around $20,000 in one day, according to Bryan.

Bryan shopped at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue regularly and knew most of the staff, including Aaron Saltor, the security guard whose life was taken that day. The two used to talk to each other about cars.

Bryan’s children, Darian and Nia, went to daycare across the street. Bryan and his family planned to go to the grocery store on that day, but chose to go to the Elmwood Market instead. 

“I just never heard him weep or cry like that, that was extremely hard for me to hear,” his wife, Jessica Bryan, said about his reaction to the shooting. 

After Winter Storm Elliott brought Buffalo to a standstill last December, Bryan and his team cooked and distributed over 3,000 meals to storm victims over the course of four days.

“Buffalo is my home,” he said. “Buffalo pretty much made me, and all these are my people.”

Prior to The Plating Society, Bryan ran the kitchen at Prima Café in Hamburg, New York. He hired and trained all the staff, recreated all the menus and redesigned the kitchen. But he did not feel like he fully fit into the town, as he would rarely see other Black people. One percent of Hamburg’s population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Then for the first time in his two years as a chef at the Prima Café, a Black man walked in. Intrigued, Bryan walked over and struck up a conversation with him. 

The next day, the man returned to the restaurant and asked Bryan who the executive chef was. When Bryan confirmed that he was the one in charge, the man revealed himself to be Vontae Davis, former Buffalo Bills cornerback. Davis had moved to Erie County the week before to play for the Bills.

Bryan, a Jamaican, didn’t know anything about American football, but that didn’t stop him from accepting the opportunity to be his personal chef.

Not too long afterward, in September 2018, Davis abruptly retired during halftime of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers. One of the first people he contacted was Bryan.

“Chef, I don’t need any more meals, I’m retiring,” Davis texted Bryan. 

Later that year, Davis hired Bryan to cook a six-course meal at a New Year’s event with 30 Bills players in attendance. The players were impressed. Diggs reached out soon after, asking for Bryan to become his personal chef.

“I didn’t even like lobster like that, but the way he cooked it, he made me fall in love with his lobster,” Diggs told ESPN in an interview.

Bryan has been cooking for Bills players — including Davis, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, center Mitch Morse and running back Taiwan Jones — ever since. 

“Flavors: that’s me all day,” Bryan said. “That’s why these guys love my food so much.”  

Some of Bryan’s standout dishes include coconut curry salmon, cranberry and pistachio custard rack of lamb, bourbon brûléed sweet potato and short rib stew.

Bryan was featured on CBS Saturday Morning, where he discussed his work for the victims of the May 14 shooting.

Bryan says he spends about 13 hours a day cooking. He goes to sleep at midnight, wakes up at 3 a.m. and then heads straight to the gym to start his day.

“I just don’t feel tired though,” he said. “My passion keeps me going.”

Despite all his commitments, Bryan would not be able to accomplish many of his achievements without his wife.

Jessica Bryan handles business development and seeks opportunities to build her husband’s brand behind the scenes while he focuses on cooking.

“Amazing father, amazing husband, but in the kitchen, he’s a beast,” she said about her husband. “When you live with somebody who used to [live near] crocodiles, basically trying to avoid getting eaten, it’s just different.”

Bryan charges his clients a $75 minimum booking fee for catered meals at The Plating Society, plus the cost of groceries, but he also does pop-up shops for those who wouldn’t be able to afford his catered meals.

Bryan says that by the time he reaches age 40, he sees himself vacationing on a beach with his wife and kids. 

“A little boy back in Jamaica walking barefoot, riding a bicycle, to this? It’s just a blessing,” he said.

A.J. Franklin is an assistant features editor and can be reached at aj.franklin@ubspectrum.com

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