Evans, Darryl 1961–
Darryl Evans 1961–
Darryl Evans, executive chef at Villa Christina in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the top culinary artists in the nation. In 1988, as the first African American member of the U.S. Culinary Olympics team, he won two individual gold medals, and team gold and silver medals. His numerous other culinary awards include winning first prize in the National Taste of Elegance recipe contest in 1994, and being named Chef of the Year by the Greater Atlanta Chef’s Association in 1996.
Evans began his career as a chef’s apprentice in 1983. Seven years later, he was an executive chef, a position he has held at several restaurants and country clubs in the Atlanta area. “I would recommend my job to young people—it’s a valuable career,” Evans said in an interview with CBB. “It’s taken me all around the world. I’ve traveled to South Africa, to China—I’ve stood on the Great Wall—to England, all over. Food can take you all around the world.”
In 1998 Evans accepted the job of executive chef at Villa Christina, an Italian restaurant and banquet facility. Thatsame year, Villa Christina was one of just 15 American eateries to be recognized by the Italian government for serving genuine Italian cuisine. “Evans owns a soft voice, a slender frame and an absurdly youthful appearance for one who has risen so far,” Henry Chase wrote in American Visions, one of several national publications that have featured articles on Evans.
“It’s tough to tell exactly how busy Darryl Evans is, because he’ll be speaking softly and deliberately, cool as a cuke, regardless of the fray,” wrote Kerri Conan in Restaurant Business. One reason for Evans’ calmness is his attitude toward customer satisfaction. “Since I set my goals so high, I don’t have to worry about cooking to satisfy ‘the guest’ or the style of the restaurant,” Evans was quoted as saying in Nation’s Restaurant News. “I just go all out—and cook for myself.”
While eating delicious food is an enjoyable experience, the role of food is more significant than that, Evans believes. “Being exposed to good food can better your home life,” he told CBB. “Eating together can bring a family together. Food initiates everything we do. Throughout history and culture, food has played an important part—whether as part of signing a peace treaty, or blessing an event or ceremony.”
Darryl E. Evans was born on November 24, 1961, in Columbus, Georgia. The youngest of three boys, he gained a great deal of experience working in the kitchen. “My father was a schoolteacher, and my mother was a housewife, so when my two older brothers were in school, I stayed home with my mother and did ‘girly’ things, like baking cakes,” Evans told Henry Chase of American Visions.
At a Glance …
Born Darryl E. Evans, November 24, 1961 in Colum bus, Georgia; married to Deborah, an IRS employee, 1991; children: Bradford-Michael and Brandon. Education: Studied business administration at Chattanoochee Valley Community College, 1981–83; National Apprenticeship Program, American Culinary Foundation, 1983–86; became Certified Working Chef, 1991. Religion; Baptist,
Career: Apprentice, pastry chef, sous chef, Cherokee Town and Country Club, Atlanta, GA, 1983–90; executive chef, Azalea Restaurant, Atlanta, GA, 1990–91; executive chef, Athens Country Club, Athens, GA, 1991–92; executive chef, The Vinings Club, Atlanta, GA, 1992–94; executive chef, Grand Hotel Atlanta, 1995–97; executive chef, Four Seasons Hotel, Atlanta, GA, 1997–98; executive chef, Villa Christina, 1998–.
Selected awards: Gold medal, Atlanta Food Show, 1987; Three gold medals, one silver medal, International Culinary Olympics, Frankfurt, Germany, 1988; Chef’s Hall of Fame, 1989; Gold medal, Culinary Olympics, Frankfurt, Germany, 1992; Culinarian of the Year, Greater Atlanta Chefs Association, 1991–92, 1992–93; First Place, National “A Taste of Elegance” Competition, 1994; Chef of the Year, Greater Atlanta Chefs Association, 1996.
Addresses: Home —Stone Mountain, GA, Office —Villa Christina, 45 Perimeter Summit Blvd., Atlanta, GA.
As a child growing up in western Georgia, Evans idolized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We observed Dr. King’s birthday even when there weren’t celebrations elsewhere in the country,” he was quoted as saying in American Visions. “Oscar Robertson and Dr. J were [also] big heroes, though I wasn’t a big athlete—I preferred playing the drum in the marching band.” In several interviews, Evans mentioned that his years in the ROTC band shaped his work habits. “I learned about precision from music,” he told Jack Hayes of Nation ’s Restaurant News. “ROTC put rhythm in my step,” he remarked to Henry Chase of American Visions. “We used to march three steps for every five yards, and even now, when I want to speed things up, I put myself in that cadence.”
At the age of 21, Evans moved from Columbus to Atlanta, where he took a job clearing tables in a restaurant. After meeting a young man who was a chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Evans thought, “I could do that,” he later recalled in an interview with Henry Chase of American Visions. His next job was in the purchasing department of the Cherokee Town and Country Club. This department was located across the hall from the club’s pastryarea, and whenever Evans had a chance, he wandered over. “Pastries set the tone for everything in my career,” he remarked in American Visions. “Because I had done cakes at home in Columbus, I understood what the chef there was doing, and when he let me help him, I knew what to do.”
Evans landed a full-time position in the pastry shop in 1983, and began a three-year apprenticeship with executive chef Thomas Catherall. “I just stuck by his side and did whatever he did,” Evans told American Visions. “I didn’t care about money, just about learning.” In 1986, Evans was named Atlanta Apprentice of the Year. He stayed at the Cherokee Club for eight and a half years, honing his culinary skills. After his apprenticeship ended, Evans spent two years as pastry chef, and later was promoted to sous chef.
By 1987, Evans had begun to win local food competitions, including a gold medal at the Atlanta Food Show and second place in Atlanta’s Seafood Challenge. The following year, he became the first African American member of the U.S. Culinary Olympics team. “It’s held every year in conjunction with the regular Olympics,” Evans explained to CBB. “You’re given a basket of food, and you have four and a half hours to come up with the menus.” At the 1988 Olympic competition in Frankfurt, Germany, Evans won two individual gold medals, and team gold and silver medals.
In 1990, Evans left the Cherokee Club. In partnership with Thomas Catherall, he opened the Azalea Restaurant in Atlanta. “I owned only a tiny, micro piece of the place,” he remarked to Henry Chase of American Visions. Evans was given the position of executive chef, with responsibility for managing the kitchen as well as preparing food.
The following year, Evans was appointed executive chef of the Country Club in Athens, Georgia. “Being an executive chef requires more than just cooking skills,” Evans told CBB. “You also have to have management skills, and to know about labor and food costs. There’s a lot of pressure, because you’re making something out of nothing, but when it works it’s great.” In 1992, he competed on the American Culinary Federation’s southeast regional team at the Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany, and won another gold medal.
In 1993, Evans took a job as executive chef at the Vinings Club, a business and athletic facility with three food-service venues featuring heart-healthy “spa cuisine.” That same year, he spent several weeks in South Africa, as a participant in the World Cooks Tour for Hunger. During the event, teams prepared fund-raising dinners, shared culinary skills and nutritional tips with those who feed the hungry, or cooked meals for local communities in need. “I feel like we had an impact,” Evans remarked to Kerri Conan of Restaurant Business. “The chefs gave all they had. We worked harder at the food than during competition.”
Meanwhile, Evans continued to win awards for his culinary ability. In 1994, he was awarded top honors in the national Taste of Elegance recipe contest, which was sponsored by the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board. Evans took home the $5000 first prize for his recipe, Apple Smoked Pork Loin with an Apple, Dried Cherries, Smoked Gouda and Walnut Strudel.
Despite his success in culinary competitions, Evans believes that his restaurant work is the true measure of his ability. When the Vinings Club wanted to build a case to display the trophies he had won, Evans declined. “You’re only as good as your last meal,” he told Henry Chase of American Visions. “My meals will be the trophies of my work.”
In 1995, Evans accepted the position of executive chef at the Grand Hotel Atlanta. Two years later, he moved to a similar position at the Four Seasons Hotel. In 1998, Evans became executive chef at Villa Christina, a restaurant and banquet facility that is surrounded by eight acres of manicured lawns and nature paths. “We have an open kitchen here, so I can look out and see the happiness on people’s faces,” Evans told CBB. “It’s instant satisfaction. It’s very rewarding.”
“I try to cook as light as possible, using indigenous ingredients from Italy,” Evans explained to CBB. “It’s not the cream sauces or heavy tomato sauces that people in this country think of as typical of Italian food. I think of it as taking the lightness of California cuisine, and marrying it with the intense flavors of Italian cuisine. The result is modern Italian cuisine.” The restaurant’s eclectic menu features dishes such as roast petite chicken with creamy risotto, and grilled tenderloin with Tuscan beans and wild mushrooms. “We change our menu four times a year, in season with Italy,” Evans told CBB. “We travel over there a lot too. But we’re not trying to be a carbon copy of another Italian restaurant.”
Despite the demands of his job, Evans makes time in his schedule to give back to the community. “I’m currently very involved with Taste of the Nations, which is a countrywide organization to feed the homeless,” he remarked to CBB. “I’m very involved with my church, and feeding the homeless there—not just for one meal, but as a day-to-day thing.” Evans told Henry Chase of American Visions that, in his spare time, he enjoys “doing yard work, cutting grass and listening to music. And…collecting Prince paraphernalia.”
Essence, July 1998, p. 112.
Nation’s Restaurant News, Oct. 3, 1994, p. 49.
Restaurant Business, Nov. 1, 1993, p. 134.
Restaurant Hospitality, June 1994, p. 74.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from a CBB interview with Darryl Evans on May 28, 1999.
"Evans, Darryl 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/evans-darryl-1961
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