Cosigned by N.O.R.E., Pitbull, Fat Joe, Richard Branson and Monica, to name a few, you could say chef Derrick Turton’s macaroni and cheese is a chart-topping hit.
Just a handful of years ago, Turton, also known as Chef Teach, was promoting some of music’s biggest artists. Turton parlayed a successful career in music into a thriving business, called House of Mac. However, he got his start in culinary school, with his first job at Red Lobster.
It didn’t last long.
"Even though I got into, like, the music business, I would always still cook like therapy,” Turton told InsideEdition.com.
“I always hated working in a restaurant, but I've always loved the art of cooking. Its always been my happy spot. I lose myself in the kitchen."
In the early 2000s, the Brooklyn native was a club promoter in Miami.
A chance meeting led him to working with rapper Luke, and that turned into him promoting a then-unknown artist named Pitbull.
Those same artists, known for spending long hours in the studio, would get hungry. "Instead of using their per diem money to go order food, they would just be like, 'let Teach cook.' I would cook something for [ASAP] Ferg in the studio, then he'd post it," Turton said.
Pictures and video of the food went up on social media, catching the attention of rapper Bun B of UGK.
"Bun was like, the first person to say, ‘I think you should take the cooking thing a little more seriously. I think you got something special and I think you should follow it,'" he said.
While Turton was still in the music business, working with labels like Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, he would throw barbecues and cook for his artists on the side.
Realizing he was no longer giving his artists his all, he knew he’d have to choose.
A tragedy would jolt him into cooking full time.
“My father passed away suddenly in 2013. He's Trinidadian, real stubborn. ... He would never go to the hospital,” Turton said.
His father, Keith, lived in Detroit at the time. Keith's wife managed to convince him to go to the hospital, where was diagnosed with a tear on his aorta.
"He basically went under, made it through the surgery, but just, complications afterward, and never woke up. When I landed in Detroit, he passed away like 30 minutes before I landed. So I didn't even get to say goodbye."
The loss got Turton thinking.
“You start asking yourself like tough questions. Like if that was me, and I checked out like that, what’s my legacy? I made some history doing music, I got some plaques on the wall, but what do I have? It was one of those things that hit a light switch in my head and changed my whole trajectory," he said.
Turton made the leap, walked away from the music and purchased a food truck.
“And of course, everybody’s looking at me like I got three heads on my shoulders because they're like, 'You gonna walk away from the music business, you had a successful career, you had an 18 year run, you gonna walk away from that to go start a food truck?' I'm like, yeah," he said.
So Turton treated House of Mac just like a new artist he had to break.
"I made my father's face the face of my brand and in a sense for me, because I feel like he's always looking over my shoulder now, he's always present in everything that I'm doing so it just represents something bigger than me," he said.
When Turton stopped working for Pitbull, the rapper gifted him with some money to help with start up costs. Turton said he never asked any of his high profile friends for a dime, or any free promotion, either.
Once they learned of his new endeavor, they lent him their support, posting on social media about how yummy the food was.
For Turton, that kind of promotion is priceless.
With all that Turton has accomplished — what would his dad think?
"I don't really talk about this kind of stuff. You know how people deal with tragedy and stuff differently, I kind of compartmentalized things so I've never been actually asked that question. As strange as it is. But I don't know. I really don't know. But I know he would be proud of me,” he said.
He added, “I know he’s gotta be watching over everything I’m doing because it hasn’t been all pretty. There have been forces and things that have definitely been against me. And for one reason or another, we push through and I attribute that to having people like my father looking over me and making sure I’m straight.”
With his angel on his shoulder, Turton is moving forward. That food truck has now grown into three brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Miami area.
So his dream wasn't that crazy after all.
"I'm just in a happy place and I just feel like if you find that space in your life, that's a kind of wealth you can't even compare. So I say follow your dreams," Turton said.