Durden’s Catering is comfort food topped with a touch of class. Owner and executive chef Rytonie Durden serves food that soothes the soul and tickles your palette, all while treating Detroiters like family.
The Detroit chef continues to prove that if you run the marathon with faith and determination, you can achieve anything.
Rolling out caught up with Chef Tony, as Durden is affectionately called, to talk about everything from catering to carry-outs.
Tell us about your culinary journey.
I started cooking at 3-years-old with my grandma. At 16-years-old, I got the opportunity to fill-in for a cook at my family’s restaurant and bar. I attended the Culinary Institute of Michigan in Muskegon, coming home every weekend to cater for family and friends. After graduation, I worked as a cook for Receiving Hospital, then Children’s Hospital before leaving to start Durden’s Catering. Initially, I served lunches out of a hot station lunch truck. The meals were prepared at my home and served from the lunch truck parked at my friend’s shop, Davis Brothers Collision, on 7 Mile Rd in Detroit. From there the company started growing. I spent even years cooking from my home before landing on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion!
Describe the type of food you serve.
I’ve been told I have an old soul. Customers say things like, “There must be an old lady back there cooking.” or “How old are you?” I’m 30 years old, but my macaroni and cheese, greens and yams taste like somebody’s grandma made them. My food has a southern flare, but I do venture off into other cuisines. For example, our lamb chops are an item that we can’t keep in stock. People love them.
As a catering company, why did you decide to offer carry-out services?
Carry-out is where it all started. I used to go to hair salons and vehicle body shops offering carry-outs. People long for good food, especially on-the-go. Everybody can’t afford catering services, nor do they need them. It started as a once or twice a week pop-up. The demand was so crazy for it, so much so that now I offer it four times a week. I had to keep my people satisfied.
What is one common misconception about Durden’s Catering?
Social media makes people think Chef Tony is Durden’s Catering. Chef Tony is just a part of Durden’s Catering. I have about 10 part-time to full-time staff. Depending on the event, I employ more staff and in a year that could be about 50-60 people. We collectively are Durden’s catering. I’m just the executive chef at Durden’s Catering. I’m just the face for a brand.
What role has social media played in the evolution of Durden’s Catering?
I don’t know where we’d be without social media. We only advertise via social media for our carry-out services. Between my business page and personal page, on Instagram only, we have about 55K followers. Social media plays an intricate part in our success.
Durden’s Catering sits at 20504 Livernois Ave., on Detroit’s historic Avenue of Fashion.