Darnell Ferguson, chef and partner at SuperChefs, posed for a photo one month before his restaurant burned. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Darnell Ferguson, chef and partner at SuperChefs, posed for a photo one month before his restaurant burned. | Photo by Steve Coomes

If a country song writer could hear the story of Darnell Ferguson’s bizarre and unfolding life, he’d commit it straight to staff paper.

Surely there’s a Tom T. Hall in waiting who’s ready to make a hit single out of the torrid and triumphant tales of a 28-year-old who’s beaten drug addiction and suffered through incarceration and homelessness en route to finding Jesus — then becoming a serious chef who just saw his first restaurant destroyed in a January fire.

The once colorful SuperChefs storefront is now boarded up following a Jan. 10 fire. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The once colorful SuperChefs storefront is now boarded up following a Jan. 10 fire. | Photo by Steve Coomes

But unlike many country songs, there’s no sadness to squeeze out of Ferguson today. Almost a month after the fire, he’ll tell you he’s the most fortunate man he knows.

“I have so many blessings in my life that I can’t let one misfortune overturn them all,” said Ferguson, who owns SuperChefs along with partners Ryan Bryson and Rodney White. “The restaurant used to be everything to me. My identity was all my cooking and my food. But then Christ became my identity, so I’m not focused on the restaurant anymore. There’s so much more important stuff happening now.”

This past week he was focused on an appearance on the “Rachael Ray Show” in New York. A few months ago, word of his improbable personal story migrated from Louisville to the ears of producers of three significant New York-based TV shows: Ray’s show, the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” and the “Steve Harvey Show.” All wanted him in front of their cameras, but Ferguson chose Ray because of their shared cooking background.

That deal was sealed long before January’s fire, yet when a producer called Ferguson to confirm the date for a scheduled shoot last month at SuperChefs, he had to tell him the business was destroyed. As they talked, Ferguson said the producers became puzzled that the young chef didn’t seem heartbroken.

TV star Rachael Ray will host SuperChefs' Darnell Ferguson on her show Feb. 5. | Photo courtesy of Darnell Ferguson
TV star Rachael Ray will host SuperChefs’ Darnell Ferguson on her show Feb. 5. | Photo courtesy of Darnell Ferguson

“There was no worse timing possible for the fire,” Ferguson allowed. “But the story isn’t really about SuperChefs restaurant. It’s about everything we stand for and what we’ve overcome. So they wanted to come anyway.”

Ray’s crew came and recorded Ferguson cooking at the home of church friends Brit and Holly Colwick, and then he flew to New York last Monday for the studio appearance. The visit to a New York studio wasn’t Ferguson’s first, but this one did land him in front of the camera and on TV. Past auditions for “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The Next Food Network Star” failed to pan out as well.

“I really enjoyed it; it was so cool,” he said of Ray’s show. “I want a show on the Food Network someday, so I use all these opportunities to be on camera as a chance to grow.”

He also used the spot on Ray’s show to reveal “something big” about the next move for him and his SuperChefs partners in Louisville. To find that out, you’ll have to watch (or record) the episode, which airs Friday, Feb. 5, at 10 a.m. on WDRB.

“On the show is when I’ll say what’s going to happen next, and it’s going to blow everybody’s minds,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got some big things planned.”

Ferguson did say changes are coming for SuperChefs. Once resurrected (he and his partners haven’t determined if it will be relocated), it will serve breakfast and lunch only. A new dinner concept with its own name and building will follow.

“I’m just excited about the future, man, because I believe God is doing something special here,” he said. “And it’s not happening because I’m something special, it’s that he’s doing it. That’s special. That was a big part of being on the (Rachael Ray) show was to put him up front, not me.”

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.