Darrell Gaston has been involved in Ward 8 as a candidate for the D.C. Council and the state board of education position and has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner and anti-violence community activist. But now he has a new gig: chef and restaurant owner.
Gaston owns and serves as the chef of Kitchen Savages, a takeout located in the Good Foods Market in the Bellevue neighborhood of the ward. He said food has long been a passion but he wanted to take it to another level with Kitchen Savages.
“I have worked with at-risk young people and found that common ground could be reached when they are eating,” he said. “Food brings people together. So, I decided to do something about that.”
With Kitchen Savages, Gaston offers residents of Ward 8 another food option but gives people, mainly at-risk individuals, the chance to learn about the culinary industry and possibly establish a career in the field.
The Start of Kitchen Savages
Gaston has worked for years trying to save young lives through his DC Young Emerging Leaders program, which he founded in 2013. His experiences with his non-profit revealed that many at-risk youth lack healthy foods in their homes, if there’s anything to eat at all.
“I learned over time when I would fix something to eat for young people, they would eat my food and then compliment me on how it tasted,” Gaston said.
Plus, Gaston said he helped family members prepare Sunday dinner.
“It was during Sunday dinner that my family would discuss what is going on among us and out in the world,” he said.
In 2018, Gaston made the decision to pursue entrepreneurship in the food business. He worked to prepare himself to be a chef and eventually a business owner. However, when the pandemic came to the District, he realized the importance of having healthy food options in Ward 8.
“Because of where we are located in the city, it is difficult for DoorDash and other food delivery companies serve our people,” he said. “I decided to go ahead and get started on Kitchen Savages even though the pandemic was in full force. Ward 8 residents should be able to get healthy food without having to cross over the Anacostia River.”
In his research, Gaston found the culinary industry in the District needed chefs of color. What better way to teach Blacks about the industry than to offer opportunities to work for him, gain experience and use what they learned to build a solid career, he asked.
“I decided to create something with teaching and training together,” Gaston said. “So far it has worked out well.”
In order to enjoy the items offered by Kitchen Savages, you’ll need to go to the Good Foods Market in Bellevue.
“We are so thankful for Good Foods Market for allowing us to use their kitchen,” he said.
In Spring 2022, Gaston will formally open Kitchen Savages as a sit-down restaurant for 40-45 people in the MLK Gateway located in Historic Anacostia. He said Bo Menkiti, the founder and chief executive officer of The Menkiti Group, and his staff worked with him to secure a lease in the MLK Gateway’s eastern building which will house the restaurant and culinary school.
Additionally, Gaston received a grant from the Bowser administration designed to spur food establishments in Ward 8 earlier this fall.
Gaston said since establishing his takeout, he has had 668 sales in the past month. Popular items on the menu include: honey blackened salmon and crab cake egg rolls and shrimp in different offerings. Gaston said the banana pudding cheese cake has emerged as his most popular item with the peach cobbler cheese cake a close second.
“The most important thing is that we offer our customers good healthy food to consume,” he said.