When Pitbull was laying down vocals for "International Love," do you think he knew that his then-manager would go on to open a food truck serving innovative comfort food to late-night diners around Wynwood? Probably not. But for Derrick Turton, better known as Chef Teach, a career in food was always a goal, even after managing Mr. 305 for more than a decade.
Toiling behind the stoves of his food truck on a recent Sunday night in the parking lot of LMNT, the event space on NW 36th Street, Teach reminisced about getting into music and then leaving it behind. "I went to vocational school [for cooking] back in 1998, but then I got sidetracked by music. It's kind of ironic how things came full circle," he says, looking content to be dishing out multiple pans of his popular mac 'n' cheese loaded with lobster. Even if you had no idea this man once managed one of the most successful recording artists of the past decade, you'd never know he hadn't spent his entire life cooking.
"Teach went on to become the vice president of a very successful label called Polo Ground Music, but cooking has just always been his passion," says Al Nelson, Teach's business partner and a successful entrepreneur himself. "One day, we were just sitting around talking about the possibility of creating a catering company or a food truck, and I was very intrigued by the idea."
Chef Teach is part of a growing number of professionals — not just in Miami — leaving their day jobs for their true love, which happens to be cooking. Hoping to turn his kitchen on wheels into a permanent space and perhaps even a franchise (you learn a thing or two about business when you manage someone like Pitbull), he's trying to feel out his clientele on a nightly basis at bars and clubs throughout Wynwood. Nelson, his partner, received funding from Shark Tank's Mark Cuban for his company Easy VIP. Success seems imminent.
Originally from Trinidad, Teach and Nelson want to create the Roscoe's of the East Coast, but with Caribbean flair. One of the go-to dishes, and one that Teach most loves talking about, is his jerk chicken pasta. Fettuccine Alfredo is laced with jerk spices, yielding a pungent yet familiar dish that pairs well with just about any of the bar or club drinks in the area. For an appetizer, chicken wings are cooked to crisp perfection and then slathered in Buffalo, lemon-pepper, barbecue, or garlic-Parmesan sauce.
The star of the show, though, is the chicken 'n' waffles. Marinated in buttermilk before frying, the boneless chicken pieces are moist and tender. As good as it is, though, even the chicken is no match for red-velvet waffles griddled to order and then doused with white-chocolate syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Make sure you're not on a trendy diet before you try any of Teach's food. He'll make sure you leave full.
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Chef Teach's House of Mac truck is often parked in the lot at LMNT throughout the week, sometimes moving at night to other locations. We caught him this week outside Wynwood Brewing, a delicious match for the brewery's local craft beers. To best find the truck, though, hit Teach and his team up on Instagram, where they'll entice you with photos of the hearty cuisine and reveal their location.
Some say the food truck trend is waning, that too much competition and high parking fees have made the business too cutthroat. But if Pitbull's former manager can get into the game and make food from scratch that's this exciting, let's hope food trucks are only beginning their second wave of popularity.