If you’ve ever been to Prince George’s County, Maryland, then you’ve likely heard of Uncaged Chefs.
Chef Damian Brown’s concept is simple: there are no rules. Uncaged Chefs, which started with a brunch pop-up in Camp Springs Maryland just a few years ago, has now launched a full-scale restaurant that has locals and tourists alike waiting in lines that circle the shopping plaza to eat at the infamous local eatery.
It’s no surprise. If you’ve ever met Chef Damian, his presence is as humble as it is masterful, creating his culinary creations with ease — so running a restaurant seemed like a natural fit. Especially considering the experience he had at an early age.
Brown’s life story is written in his recipes. As the oldest of five children, Brown learned to cook at a young age because it was his job to make the family meals. During visits with his great-grandfather, he picked up other tricks, as the two would find a recipe in a cookbook and make it together.
After attending culinary school, he worked as a corporate chef, which is interesting considering his “no rules” approach. The chef, known for throwing together a meal with any ingredients he can find, still found ways to tap into his creative side however. It started with a private Facebook page called The Uncaged Chefs, where he would post the most off-the-wall dishes he could cook up. And then, grew into his Instagram page that now boasts over 200K followers. So he left to open his own restaurant. His motto? “Don’t be scared to be weird.”
A philosophy he’s carried into his restaurant, which recently went through a transformation, and features his signature dishes such as Jerk crab and shrimp pasta, Garlic butter fried chicken alfredo and even “Trap Tacos,” served just in time for the infamous “Taco Tuesdays.”
Before starting The Uncaged Chefs, Brown worked at fine dining kitchens including the Blue Duck Tavern, Fiola Mare, Occidental, and Vidalia and has served as a private chef for NBA players, rappers, and producers.
These days, Brown is earning rave reviews for Uncaged Chefs. And he wants people to think about why critics and customers deem only certain cuisines – Italian, French, Japanese — worthy of paying attention. Brown had always wanted to build more than a restaurant: he wanted a community center of sorts, a place where Black people could have a good meal and be themselves. And that’s exactly what he created.
Brown sees his own culinary repertoire as a counter to these food world stereotypes — especially in Washington D.C. While his food encompasses a range of southern and Caribbean influences, one cuisine he doesn’t do is what some diners might expect of a young Black chef: have fun with soul food. Whether adding candy bars to desserts, or Hennessy to his chicken.
Above all, Uncaged Chefs keeps feeding thousands, and Brown keeps striving to better the city he loves.
Uncaged Chefs is located at 6027 Marlboro Pike, District Heights, MD 20747.
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