When you think of celebrity chefs in the Palm Beaches, one of the first people who should pop into your mind is Derrick McCray. Known for his amazing BBQ ribs, brisket, and more, McCray’s has been a favorite of the NFL, politicians and local diners for more than 40 years.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with McCray to talk about his cooking style, memories, and the future.
How did you get started in the food industry? My family has a barbecue restaurant business history that expands over 80 years. I started in the food industry as a child working with my father, Rev. Herman C. McCray, Jr, who opened the first McCray’s BBQ in 1977. I started out washing dishes and graduated to chopping meat and running the cash register when I was in high school. After attending college and working in fine restaurants in Palm Beach County I opened my own barbecue business. When I started McCray’s Backyard BBQ I had one grill and $100 that I borrowed from my mother.
Can you tell us a little more about your Restaurant? McCray’s Backyard BBQ has two great locations. We sell all American barbecue (Ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs). McCray’s Backyard BBQ has catered hundreds of events including the NFL Super Bowl Tailgate Party and other NFL events for the past 10 years.
What is your philosophy on cooking? My philosophy is every meal is cooked and served with loved. Every customer is loved and respected.
Of all the dishes on the current menu, which is your favorite? My favorites on the menu are the ribs, beef brisket and baked beans
Are you enjoying your time in South Florida? I was born and raised in South Florida. I love it here!
Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in fine dining? I’ve worked as a chef in some of the finest restaurants in Palm Beach County. The expertise that I learned while working as a chef helped me build my business and the positive relationship that I have with my customers.
What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your cooking career? When I catered for President Bill Clinton (before he became a vegan) he tasted my ribs and asked if I was from Arkansas. He said, “Derrick are you sure you aren’t from Arkansas because these ribs sure are good!”
I know that many restaurants in South Florida now focus on using more local cuisine. What foods are you planning on highlighting this season? Our customers love our sweet potato pie. During the holiday season we sell more of our sweet potato pies and bread pudding. The sweet potatoes are grown locally.
More and more chefs in the Palm Beaches have become involved in cooking contests featured on the Food Network. Do you have any interest in that? I’ve participated in many (barbecue) cooking challenges and I have won all of the ones that I participated in. I would love the opportunity to cook on the Food Network.
What new and exciting plans do you have for your restaurant? We are building a brand new restaurant in Mangonia Park that will be open before the end of 2016. It will have outside seating and televisions for our customers pleasure.
Palm Beach Happening would like to thank the Derrick McCray and Hey, Sandy! PR and Communications for helping to make this interview possible.
If you’re a local chef whose cuisine matches up to the best out there, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us and perhaps you can be the next celebrity chef!