BRENTWOOD, Md. — "I’m the uncaged chef. No rules," Damian Brown said, describing the culinary style of his new restaurant.
It only takes one look at a dish to understand why people line up around the block for a taste of Chef Brown’s food.
He's an experienced chef who left the corporate restaurant world to begin selling plates out of a carry-out joint in his Capitol Heights neighborhood once a week.
"I wasn’t expecting the turn out," Brown said. “I just made a simple post with a simple menu -- 'I’m here between this time.'"
Brown was surprised when his post gained attention.
"Literally a freaking line outside of the door," Brown said.
Brown recently opened his own spot inside of Prince George’s County’s first food hall in Brentwood, called Savor at Studio 3807. Brown, a DMV native, has more than 90,000 followers and counting on Instagram alone.
Brown said that the support he gets from the community makes him feel like he is "doing something right." To understand why the moment of owning his own restaurant is so significant for Brown, you have to know his story.
Brown was the oldest of five children, and his mother worked long hours as a bounty hunter.
"Probably like the biggest thing that we went through was just trying to survive," he said.
The fight to survive didn't always lead Brown down the right path, and the struggles made it hard for him to see a bright future for himself.
"I used to be involved in gangs and drugs and all that stuff," Brown said. "So, I really had no vision or dream to live past a certain age -- which is 30. Literally, since then I’ve been counting down the days until I die."
That drive helped him find his way out of life on the streets, to culinary school and a legal career, and helped him discover a reason to live.
"That’s what’s been pushing so much harder than everyone around me," he said.
Brown never shared his story because he was ashamed, but realized the impact revealing his journey could have on future generations.
"I’m setting an example for them that they can step out of their situation and be anything that they want to be," he said. "I went from nothing to something."
The Uncaged Chefs is located inside of the ‘Savor at Studio 3807’ food hall in Brentwood, Maryland.
The grand opening is Oct. 24, but the restaurant is open on select days prior.