Innovation

Simply Brilliant

“…Take away the chef credentials, the accolades, the awards, etc and what are you left with? A man who tirelessly works to help others with nothing asked for in return. If he does ask for anything, it is always “What else can I do for you?”

I sincerely hope people take the time to understand Donnie and his story. Thing is his story isn’t over at all. Rather, it is just beginning.”  Hunter Henrickson – Written May 7, 2017

 

About Chef Donnie Simmons…

An Untold Chef’s Story

 

“My name is Hunter Henrickson and I have had the privilege of knowing, learning from and working with Executive Chef Donnie Simmons for going on two years now. What I have learned about him are two important things: He is very humble and giving.

I write this in hopes to shed light on this man’s career and life that many do not know beyond what is posted on his social media accounts. Donnie is a man of humble beginnings who has started from the lowest position on the totem pole, worked for some of the biggest names in the music industry, awarded numerous awards from national publications and is a beacon for community involvement, support, and sobriety wherever he goes. Many know him by his title, by his social media handle or even by his food creations. But I know him as one of my closest friends, a mentor and idol. I know him as Donnie or “D” for short.

Originally from Mint Hill, North Carolina, Donnie first began his path in the kitchen at a relatively young age at the local Charlotte favorite, Eddie’s Place as the dishwasher. While this is not an ideal position for anyone, it laid the framework for his career. Donnie continuously worked to move himself up the proverbial corporate ladder in the kitchen and ended up right under the Head Chef position. In addition, one of the underlying roots of his geniusness in the kitchen comes from his beloved grandmother who taught Donnie everything she could. Mrs. Betty is the patriarch of the Simmons’ family and one who passed on her knowledge, know-how and recipe books to her young chef.

A few years go by and Donnie found himself wanting more. Something different. A change of scenery perhaps? It was just that. Donnie then moved down to Atlanta, Georgia for a while and would then move back and forth between Charlotte and Atlanta. Finally, he decided to perch himself in the land of NASCAR and everything fried: Charlotte, North Carolina.

In life, we are dealt experiences that either shake us to our very core, or make us into something better. That is precisely what Donnie faced a relatively short number of years ago: his life at a crossroads. Donnie suffered what would turn out to be, a moderately severe stroke in his early thirties due to a blood clot disorder (this disorder was later identified as a root cause). This stroke left a portion of his brain that is attributed to his memory function, dead. The part of his memory that was lost contained essentially every bit of his know-how in the kitchen. An entire life’s work disappeared without so much of a trace. The stroke also left Donnie with not being able to use his left arm for a number of months. The expression “coming to a screeching halt” couldn’t be more accurate here. We’re talking about a man’s life work, experiences, and knowledge just wiped from him like a busboy wiping down a table. Doctors told Donnie on numerous occasions after his stroke that he is indeed a walking miracle because normally, when a person incurs such brain damage, they’re essentially a non-functioning person anymore; commonly labeled “a vegetable”. From that point on, he had to reteach himself, with the aid of his beloved grandmother, how to cook.

Years go on and Donnie finds himself able to be back in the industry that he once loved. Reteaching himself essentially everything there is about food and cooking, working tirelessly to get back into where he belonged and boiled down: wanted to prove to himself more than anyone else that he could — and did — make it.

The proverbial ‘badge of honor’ for Donnie is a red-colored tattoo in the shape of a band-aid on the very spot where his stroke occurred. He adorns it like a gold medal around the neck of a victorious Olympic athlete. That tattoo, along with many others that cover the canvas of Donnie’s skin all in some form or fashion have a specific meaning to him.

Donnie has been sober from drinking and drugs for 88 months (as of May 4th 2017) and if you do the math, that’s just over 7 years. Donnie hasn’t looked at, thought about or even read about drugs or alcohol. His sobriety cannot be knocked and is certainly not going to stop. His sobriety over the years has been a hallmark for his name and his career. Because of it, he has launched his own campaign for sobriety: #KleanKitchen.

What is a “klean kitchen” you may ask? Well, for starters, it means exactly what it sounds like: a physically clean kitchen. Donnie has never been one to shy away from the mundane duties of cleaning his kitchen top to bottom in the years I’ve known him, and you’d be hard pressed to find a defect in kitchens led by him. But really, it refers to current/past drug addicts who are in the process of ‘cleaning’ themselves up by sobering up to regain their space in a modern working society.

Donnie has opened his doors and helped hundreds if not thousands of people wanting to help and better themselves. Random people have come up to Donnie and showed such gratitude for him genuinely caring and giving them a second chance; this being something I have witnessed first hand. If you were to ask me what is the reason for Donnie’s success over the years? My answer? He genuinely cares about other people, especially those who have walked the same lines he has. He is huge in community involvement, passing out meals prepared by him to those who couldn’t afford even the cheapest of groceries, and if you look around you’d see that it’s a growing problem.

Take away the chef credentials, the accolades, the awards, etc and what are you left with? A man who tirelessly works to help others with nothing asked for in return. If he does ask for anything, it is always “What else can I do for you?”

I sincerely hope people take the time to understand Donnie and his story. Thing is his story isn’t over at all. Rather, it is just beginning.”  Hunter Henrickson – Written May 7, 2017

 

Chef Donnie Simmons
HEAD CHEF

 

PRESS & AWARDS
Chef Donnie Simmons

 

2015 - Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

2015 - Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

2015 - Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

Hours of Operation

MON - WED
11:00am – 11:00pm

THU - SAT
11:00am – 12:00am

SUN
10:00am – 11:00pm

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