Desmond Robinson had his fill working as a senior education coordinator for training and development at Regional One Health, formerly the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. He’d spent his time in the labor pool and decided to follow his dreams.
“I quit so I could become a fulltime caterer,” said Robinson, who’d been catering public and private parties, events, weddings, bridal showers and the like for more than two years before officially launching D. Arthur’s Catering. He has clients in Memphis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Arkansas, Louisiana and Dallas.
“I enjoy catering much better and always wanted to be a chef,” said Robinson, 28.
On June 1st, the young chef provided an ample sampling of his palatable treats during a “Brunch Showcase” at the newly-built Beale Street Landing on the Riverfront.
The atmosphere was conducive for such a showcase and replete with succulent, attractive food that included chicken and waffles, seafood mac & cheese, loaded potatoes mac & cheese, pepper jack mac & cheese, veggie crepes, collared greens egg rolls, mini fish tacos, chicken drumettes, and five different desserts stations.
Robinson’s parents, Arthur and Anniece Robinson, stood proudly among the crowd, observing while their son worked his magic. He donned a white chef uniform, served and mingled with guests that numbered more than 125. They came expecting a treat and Robinson delivered.
“He is an all-around renaissance kind of guy and an upstanding kind of fellow,” said Anniece Robinson, expressing how happy she’s been after her son decided to stay in Memphis to pursue his career in the culinary arts.
“We have too many of our children leaving Memphis, and I’m glad he stayed,” she said.
A pretty good cook herself, Robinson encouraged her son to seek his own path and offered to do all she could to help him get to where he wants to go. “I’m sure he’ll do just fine,” she said.
During his formative years, Robinson observed carefully the Food Network’s Emeril John Lagasse, an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, television personality and cookbook author. Smittened, he envisioned “throwing down” just like Emeril.
“Now that I’m older, I’m a fan of so many chefs. I don’t have a favorite,” he said.
Would Robinson like to become the next superstar chef on the Food Network channel?
“Sure, I would love an opportunity to cook on the Food Network,” he said.
Robinson actually has limited formal training in the culinary arts. After graduating Whitehaven High School in 2003, he received a Bachelor’s of Art degree in communications from the University of Memphis in 2007, and a master’s degree in higher education and administration from Louisiana State University in 2011.
“It wasn’t until after undergrad in 2008 that I decided to go to culinary school,” said Robinson. “I went for one quarter and didn’t finish.”
Attending culinary school really wasn’t an option, he said, particularly after acquiring the skill set firsthand from his mother, aunts and grandmothers on both sides of the family. The bloodline, he surmised, makes him a bona fide cook.
“There are a lot of good cooks in the family. I got it naturally. That’s been my niche,” said Robinson, adding that if food is tantalizing to the taste buds and looks scrumptious, people would purchase it.
Robinson creates his own recipes and takes other recipes up a notch or two. He has a team of 20 people – servers, drivers, trainers, dishwashers and cooks – to help him create the ambience that his clients expect.
“We’re looking for other cooks who are experienced and qualified to come in knowing what to do,” said Robinson, who hopes to take his catering business to a whole new level to attract a broader clientele locally and nationally.
Memphis, however, is his hub of operation.
“It allows me to be flexible and creative. I can create different menus everyday of the week and design tables, food, and the overall décor.”