Instead of starting a career in a kitchen after graduating from culinary school in 1998, Derrick “Chef Teach” Turton found himself working alongside Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell of 2 Live Crew in the music industry.
The chef continued to work in promotions with his own marketing company when he met native Miami rapper Armando “Pitbull” Pérez in the early 2000s. Turton answered the rapper's call to help sell his records and then became Pitbull's manager. The two "rocked out for the next 13 years on a handshake," Turton says.
During his time in the music industry, Turton never stopped cooking, and the rap stars he worked with began to appreciate his culinary talents. During recording sessions, UGK's Bernard “Bun B” Freeman would suggest that Turton cook them food rather than hire a caterer. The rapper begged the chef to open a restaurant after Turton received immense feedback on his catering at a Gumbo 3000 event. Turton recalls Freeman turning to him and saying, "You've got to take this cooking thing more seriously."
Turton took the advice of his music industry friends and opened World Famous House of Mac. The concept, which began as a food truck that evolved into a restaurant in Wynwood, recently opened a location at Central Fare Marketplace in the Virgin MiamiCentral train station in downtown.
Turton says after two years of planning, he's thrilled to bring House of Mac to a different area. “It’s been quite a task, but I’m definitely excited about getting it completed and finally opening it to the public. “I’m glad to be a part of the Central Fare family and see what the future holds.”
With the goal of hosting some of Miami's most popular restaurants and food trucks, Central Fare reached out to Turton two years ago. From there, Turton says, he assisted in planning his restaurant's inclusion, along with the overall blueprint for the first phase of the food court.
The former music executive says having a concept at the new food hall is a chance for him to be at the forefront of beautifying the community and putting Central Fare on the radar. Eighty percent of House of Mac employees consist of Overtown residents, people he considers a part of the roots of the restaurant.
House of Mac began when Turton purchased a food truck in 2014. For about two years, the truck held residence at the Wynwood Yard, where customers formed long lines for plates of mac 'n' cheese. At the end of 2017, Turton opened a short-lived brick-and-mortar in South Beach that closed for legal reasons. In 2018, House of Mac returned to Wynwood, at 2085 NW Second Ave., in the form of a permanent eatery.
Growing up in a Trinidadian family, Turton incorporates ingredients from his country’s famous macaroni pie into his recipe. The traditional dish is made by mixing eggs, evaporated milk, and various seasonings, as opposed to the usual milk and cheese of the American version. Turton says he would experiment by blending the roux with his favorite foods to create his macaroni varieties.
“Macaroni is a sacred dish. It’s almost as important as the turkey on the table,” he says.
Turton considers himself a natural when it comes to creating recipes. He says mastering the basics of making mac 'n' cheese is what allowed him to play with different ideas to create flavors such as jerk chicken mac 'n' cheese ($16 to $21) and chicken Parmesan mac 'n' cheese ($14).
One way Turton tweaks his menu is by finding creative alternatives to pork, which he avoids for personal reasons. Pizzas are topped with turkey pepperoni and chicken sausage ($14). The restaurant also serves blackened turkey burgers ($15 to $17) and buttermilk chicken and waffles ($19). Plus, customers can enjoy classic Caribbean beverages such as champagne cola ($3) and Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda ($3).
World Famous House of Mac. Central Fare at Virgin MiamiCentral Station, 550 NW First Ave., Miami; 305-903-2534; houseofmac.com. Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.