Meet the wildly entertaining and unfairly young Daniel Shemtob, whose big win on The Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race launched him into culinary stardom at the ripe age of 22. Now, with a fleet of salivating fans, three restaurants under his belt and a bar on its way (turquoise-themed), Daniel is ready to dominate downtown LA. In his spare time, he has a shoe business poised to take down NIKE.
What’s it like being a celebrity chef?
Let me tell you, it’s a little weird. I just finished working in a Saudi Prince’s house, living in the maid quarters.
What was that like?
Usually, when you get to be a celebrity chef, you are able to dictate more of what you do, so people give you a budget and you just create. In this scenario, it was just what the Prince wanted. This Prince would wake me up at 2:30am to make tuna melts. He would say “nothing fancy,” but what does that even mean? I made him a great melt with celery. He wouldn’t eat it because he didn’t like celery in tuna melts.
I haven’t cooked for anyone else’s taste before, and I probably will never do it again.
What was the biggest takeaway lesson here?
You have to stay true to form! You never realize how important that is until it’s taken away.
Why food trucks?
I started that four years ago with $6,000. It was just me and my friend from high school. We just did it. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing.
What was the Food Network like?
It really is an intense competition. It dragged out for 2 months. For the first couple weeks it was really fun—we knew we were talented, but we didn’t know if we were the best. After the first couple weeks, it really doesn’t matter how good you are, because if you make one mistake, it’s over.
How did you become a chef?
I cooked a lot when I was little, which was weird. I never cooked with my mom; I just played around in the kitchen. I started the Food Truck on the business end of it. Six months into the business, my partner asked me to buy him out. I took a bigger hand to keep the company alive and I started cooking. Cooking became the most fun part of the business. Since then I’ve been creating new menus, consulting for separate projects, and won multiple cooking competitions.
What’s your new bar?
It’s called Turquoise Room. It’s a very peculiar bar and very much based off me as a person. It will have a turquoise grand piano that people will play hip-hop on. It’s eclectic. It will feel like you’ve walk into a 70s Prince scene meets Downtown LA. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s very me.
And you have a shoe company, too?
Yep—it’s comfort shoes for the service industry. People are on their feet all day, constantly running around, so you need a shoe that can withhold all that abuse. It has to be comfortable, water resistant, easy to clean, and supportive. No one has been able to combine aesthetics and functionality. We’re doing that.
What’s the single best thing you’ve ever made?
That’s hard. The best-received dish I’ve made is my brussels sprouts. They’re legendary. Really, they’re ridiculously good. The other most popular dish it the short rib quesadilla. People write home about that one. We go through thousands a month between the food truck and the restaurants.
What about your most creative dish?
I love the blue crab and jicama taco. It’s like a decomposed crab cake. I also love the green curry risotto. That’s blackout good. Also, halibut tikka masala. It’s hard to use such a delicate fish with cream and tomato sauce, all while getting a great balance.
What’s something no one knows about you?
That’s a tough question because I’m a quirky person and really, everyone sees it. I’m transparent about my quirks.
Here’s one: I was a big car collector before I had to sell them all because I went broke and needed the money to fund all my expansions. Oh well, I guess I can buy them again.
This article originally appeared on IVY.