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Bringing the Memphis Smoke to Atlanta Cooking

Chef Taylor1

Atlanta Chef Darryl Taylor knows first-hand the pressures of cooking under fire. Just like the name of his catering company, Epicurean Drama Caterers and Events, the executive chef has established a cooking career based on luxurious, gourmet-themed food items. He was a contestant on Season Two of Gordon Ramsay’s “Next Level Chef” and has cooked for the likes of Nene Leakes, Quad Webb, Shereé Whitfield, Phaedra Park and Samuel L. Jackson, among others. But what many don’t know is that behind the scenes, he was fighting for his life and holding on to his faith. We spoke to him to find out more about his back story – as well as to get tips on cooking keto foods. We even got a recipe! (scroll down to read).

How did you become a chef?

I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I stayed in the kitchen around my mom; she was an amazing cook. In junior high school, one of my classmates wanted me to cook for her birthday party. Her mom asked me if I would do it, and it was very successful. That was the start of it all. From high school, a good friend’s mom owned a catering service. I went to work with her four hours here and there after school. That was the beginning of my catering [career].

Before opening Epicurean, what were you doing?

Today I’m celebrating my four-year kidney transplant. Four years ago, I received a gift of life. I had been on dialysis for 17 years. At 31, I just moved to Atlanta from Memphis. My mom died in the year 2000. In 2001, I started Epicurean. I had all these plans, all these dreams and goals, and boom, here comes this renal disease that robbed me. After having a near-death experience, I was shown that I was being trained throughout my life. There were reasons why I had to do this.

What was being a chef like after the kidney transplant?

After receiving the gift of life, the kidney, a year or so later I received a call to do Next Level Chef with Gordon Ramsay. COVID was hard on my catering business. [That show] created another platform for me; it has been crazy ever since.

How did you get started with your keto lifestyle and smoking keto foods?

Being on dialysis, I gained a lot of weight because I wasn’t active and [was] just eating whatever I wanted to eat because I felt ‘I’m gonna die anyway. I kept hearing about the Keto lifestyle. I started googling the diet and asked my sister, who’s a dietitian, ‘Tell me more about keto.’ Being that I’m from Memphis, Memphis is known for barbecue. Before I knew I was going to Next Level Chef, I was already working on a barbecue sauce. After I got the show, I finished the [formula].

Why do you think smoked food is not a trend but a movement?

It’s a movement because of the labor, but mostly the flavor. When I’m using smoked meat, it’s different than pan-seared anything. The flavor is in the rings, the smokiness of the meat, and how long you’re smoking it.

What foods can be smoked?

You can smoke just about anything, even if you’re vegetarian. I smoke cauliflower; I do a five-cheese mac and cheese cauliflower rice. I make a lot of [smoked] keto recipes. I take any recipe and turn it into keto and even smoke all types of vegetables like carrots.

Can a home chef smoke at home, and how?

Any chef can smoke food. I’m all about marination. I use a lot of Allegro marinade; there are so many flavors when it comes to Allegro. When I smoke, I prefer hickory and any charcoal works. (See a recipe from the chef, below!)


1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic

1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

1/4 cup diced canned red tomatoes, drained

Sea salt to taste

Original Allegro marinade, for pan-searing

Grated Parmesan cheese and crushed pork rinds, for coating

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup Boursin garlic cheese

1/4 cup smoked gouda cheese, shredded

1/4 cup gluten-free pimiento cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon blackening spices (such as Tabitha Brown Sunshine Salt-Free)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping


Prepare the Smoked Salmon Croquettes:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the deboned smoked salmon with diced onion, diced green pepper, keto bread crumbs, crushed red pepper flakes, blackening spices, powdered garlic, dried parsley, and diced tomatoes.
  2. Add in the eggs and mix well until the mixture is evenly combined.
  3. Use an ice cream scoop to portion the mixture into balls. Roll each ball in a mixture of grated Parmesan cheese and crushed pork rinds, then flatten slightly into croquette shapes.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of Original Allegro marinade. Pan-sear the salmon croquettes until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.

Make the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese:

  1. Steam the cauliflower florets until tender.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the steamed cauliflower with shredded cheddar cheese, Boursin garlic cheese, smoked gouda cheese, gluten-free pimiento cheese, heavy cream, eggs, ground nutmeg, and blackening spices. Mix until well combined.
  3. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a baking dish and top with grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mac and cheese is bubbly and heated through.


  1. Arrange the baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese on serving plates.
  2. Place the pan-seared Salmon Croquettes on top of the mac and cheese.
  3. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.


Allanah Dykes

Allanah Dykes is a freelance writer whose niche is home decor and food, but she has written in almost every field from mental health to political op-eds. Her favorite pastimes are listening to Biggie and Bach and enjoying New York Italian ices and slices


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