MasterChef’s Derrick Fox has been one busy guy, traveling around the world creating private dinners for people and playing drums with his band, Rogue Star. His latest endeavor: starting a permanent culinary residency at Ma’Kai Restaurant & Lounge in Santa Monica.
“After the show ended, life got crazy — the phone didn’t stop ringing and emails kept coming in,” said the fan favorite, who was a runner-up on season six.
“I spent countless nights responding to thousands of fan messages. I wanted to make sure that no email went unopened, and I replied to everyone. I think it really helped — it showed that I care about what I am doing,” the veteran chef said.
While on the series, the chef’s last name was Peltz, but he took his wife’s name after they married last year. Fox loves the jet-set cheffing life; just a month ago he was in Turks & Caicos, cooking at a private villa.
“I was home for two days in Los Angeles and then flew to northern British Columbia, in two feet of snow, cooking for people there. It hasn’t stopped; I still have people wanting me to come to them in different locations. So I will be juggling pop-up live dinners and working at the restaurant.”
Fox started doing gourmet pop-up dinners in several cities and recently completed one in Santa Monica, where 100 people were served a three-course dinner at ICE Santa Monica.
You would think cooking at an ice-skating rink with no kitchen would be a challenge.
“It was actually really easy,” he said. “I had a great team — I couldn’t have done it without them. I had two cooks working with me and four servers.”
Fox added: “Here we are, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, previewing the food I am now doing at Ma’Kai. It keeps getting bigger and better.”
Ma’Kai’s raw menu has sashimi-style crudos and lots of “interesting” ingredients, Fox noted. “I hope people will have fun with it. It’s fresh, vibrant and seafood-forward.”
He continued: “The menu also has some of my signature dishes, like the pork belly filet and puff pastry cage that is really, really pretty and also fun to eat. And the dessert, coconut mousse with a raspberry sorbet, is delicious.”
Originally from Florida, Fox was inspired to cook by his mother’s husband.
“My mom remarried when I was young. This man who became my father, he really showed us so much about food. He designed golf courses around the world but gave up that job to be with her. He had so much culture when he showed up and gave us so many ideas about what the world has. That was really the kick-start to it.”
The rock & roll chef grew up in Colorado before heading to Los Angeles.
“By 19, 20, I knew I needed to get to California. I was in the (now-defunct) rock band Later Days and we were touring the country, making good money. We started playing shows here and were doing really well. We were KISS FM’s breakout star, we got to play at Staples Center for Wango Tango.”
Fox became a hired gun for other acts but always supported himself in the restaurant industry. “I just fell in love with the artistry of food. Now I do both and it’s so much fun.
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“I am really inspired to create. I love the people’s reactions. If the art wasn’t there, I wouldn’t do this. It’s all about the art.”
Next up for Fox: a book and a television series pilot.
“I want to do a cookbook, but it’s more about my journey, and my recipes are intertwined. … My grandmother gave me the idea.”
Ma’Kai Restaurant & Lounge, 101 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 434-1511, makailounge.com.