Family-oriented culinary artist connects with the community through multiple avenues.
Nothing says comfort more than that full feeling after consuming something hot, steamy, and seasoned just right. There’s an abundance of gratitude for those hands that prepared a worthy meal for your body to enjoy. To bask in the warm hug that it feels like, is unmatched. Not anyone can get it just right. However, I do know at least one person who never disappoints in delivering a memorable dish like this each time. We’ll find out soon enough just how certain that is for Darian Nave.
It’s the one of the last few days of break left until school was back in session when I sat down at brunch with Nave. We’re reminded of it as we wave to another educator sitting across the restaurant. We put in our orders and got right down to the meat of the conversation. As the oldest child by 9 years, he did not get into the kitchen on his own until high school, he expresses. He remembers being taking home economic classes for a semester, either sophomore or junior year. Baking became the cornerstone of his way into the culinary scene. Catering to a hungry market of teenagers, Nave decides to sell slices of box cake at school. Making enough to quit his then job at Providence Medical Center.
After high school, Nave continued sharpening his skills while attending Dodge City Community College. During this time, he enjoyed cooking for roommates and football teammates. He connected with and received encouragement from a chef that worked on campus, who would give advice to Nave about his future career path. Next, he went on to attend The University of Kansas, where he became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Through the fraternity’s initiatives, he spent time preparing meals and serving the city’s houseless community. He states that he was able to lean on his creative cooking skills during his own personal moments of struggle while in college as well. In addition, Nave expresses that during college he made the decision to use his stepmother’s recipe for butter-pound cake for the first time. Since then, he takes pride in perfecting and now offers up to 14 different decadent flavors.
He spoke highly of his grandmother, when discussing who he took after in his culinary style. I thought of my own grandmother as he described her preparing salmon croquettes, cabbage, and fried burgers. Nave admits that he was raised mostly by women and the few men present were known to be on the grill, more so than in the kitchen. However, he also states that in his family, almost everyone knows how to cook well. Enough so that they usually rotate dishes for different events, keeping a conscious effort of sharing recipes amongst each other. Regardless, there are still a few expectations from him, he states. “Definitely something sweet. Either a cake, banana pudding or peach cobbler”. Alternatively, though, he’s created a real “side hustle” for the holidays, offering specials for family size servings of his impressive side dishes for purchase. To think, what a great help to those folks that want to see a robust table spread while saving on the time. A very intentional business decision as he discusses how he wants his food to be felt by the love and the seasoning he puts into it, not just something to “get done”.
In 2016, Cakes and Grub by D. Nave started with reaching out to family, friends and coworkers through text blast messages, renting out friend’s churches and the quickly spread word of mouth reviews. His seasoned and sauced up meatballs were one of the main dishes he’d offer at the start of professional journey. When it came to the pandemic, Nave took note of our changing environment. “Food is a necessity, and the fine dining experience was taken away. It was all about safety”, he stated. Thankfully, this did not detract from the growing support from family and others. Other chefs who were further along in their culinary careers gave props to Nave for his dedication, opening up more opportunities to swap ideas and referrals for events. As far as future plans are concerned, this artist is preparing for a lot. Nave states that he’s ready to step in front of the camera to produce cooking videos/tutorials, get more involved with pop-up events this summer and soon enough, he’ll be obtaining a small kitchen or food truck to reach even more people with his products.
While Nave remains busy juggling things on the culinary end, his community involvement has never seemed to waiver. Twenty-five years ago, he started as a proud participant of Kansas City, Kansas’s notorious Gateway Highsteppers Drill Team. The family-owned marching band and dance ensemble has become a rite of passage for many young adults in the city, including Nave. In his current role, he now contributes as Drill Master, which includes organizing and marketing events and creating new routines for the team. Other activities of involvement include coaching football for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and is committed to his duties as a faithful member of his church. Through everything, Nave stresses the importance of having time for himself. “I still need time for me. I don’t feel guilty for taking care of myself. I don’t get to cook a lot for myself, so when I do, I want it to be good”, he states.
Lastly and certainly not least, the art of teacher also found its way to Darian Nave’s heart. After many years of teaching full-time in the classroom, his strengths are now utilizing as a middle school instructional coach, assisting teachers with classroom management, lesson plans and curriculum. I should also mention that he isn’t shy about showing off his culinary talents at school either. One example being the mean pot of fresh, leafy greens that he prepared for the Black History Month potluck earlier this week. Darian Nave is a man with remarkable gifts and most admirably, often places himself in positions to share his wealth of wisdom. No doubt, his forward thinking and motivated mind will continue to move him through any challenges with grace.
Join us March 25th, when we’ll be finally getting a taste of what Darian Nave is cooking up:
Get Tickets Here: Tickets no longer on sale.