Angela ‘The Kitchenista’ Davis, Sunny Anderson respond to #DariusCrooks claims
"Before people turn to point a finger at us...I first would ask for them to first to look and see who his audience is, and who he has scammed"
Since the bombshell report from Southern Grit Magazine detailed the spat between social media food personality Darius Williams, known by his brand name Darius Cooks, and Angela “The Kitchenista” Davis, dozens of more stories have explored the online “beef.”
What started as a passing criticism of one of Williams’ recipes, Davis says that their clash escalated when Williams encouraged his followers to harass her on Twitter and Instagram.
Davis said that in addition to harassment, she also got support and messages from people who had been victims of various “scams” that Williams had orchestrated. The escalation led to Food Network’s Sunny Anderson chiming in with her own experience with Williams.
The path that led to the popular chef, who has nearly 1.5 million followers on Facebook, being outed as an accused charlatan and a scammer is a long one.
In a follow-up to the reporting surrounding Darius Cooks, which was previously published by theGrio, we spoke with Davis and Anderson to understand the origin of the dispute and what they hope will be the ultimate resolution.
theGrio reached out to Williams several times, but did not receive a response at the time of publication. This interview has been edited for brevity.
TheGrio: There is a narrative about what is going on between you and Williams — that it is a Black woman attacking a successful Black man.
Sunny Anderson: I think that a lot of times people will use these frameworks to distract. The reality is that I am a human first that wants to warn other humans about what this human is doing. Unfortunately, the human that I’m warning people about, has taken his position as a Black man to scam his own people.
So, before people turn to point a finger at us, and our ethnicity, and trying to say this is horrible that a Black woman is trying to take a Black man down, I first would ask for them to first look at the Black man, and see who his audience is, and who he has scammed. He has told people to pay him to fix their credit and hasn’t done it. He has opened up businesses and promised services or products and has not delivered 100%.
So for me, anyone who wants to say that it’s a Black woman taking down a Black man — I mean, if that’s what you want to call it — I don’t know if I care. Because at the end of the day, that Black man needs to be held accountable for what he is doing to his own people.
Angela “The Kitchenista” Davis: I would characterize it as a Black woman calling attention to a Black man who is harming Black women.
theGrio: That’s generally his demographic.
Anderson: Right? It’s abuse. Abuse is abuse. So I don’t understand why we would allow abusers to remain in our community and continue to harm and to scam other Black people. Simply because they’re Black, we’re not supposed to say anything? So we’re OK with other Black people being hurt? As long as it’s not white people doing it to us? I don’t understand that logic.
Before anyone says, ‘Oh, he doesn’t choose his audience, his audience chooses him.’ No, this is the man who thought he was going to start a Black Food Network, right? No, this is the man who started his businesses in majority-Black neighborhoods, and in Black communities. No, this is also a man who chooses to make classically Southern and Black historic recipes and bastardizing them by adding brown liquor, right? And salt by the cups. All of these unhealthy vibes and things that he does. He’s a charlatan, he’s a snake-oil salesman. I’ll say it with my chest out, and a stiff backbone. I have nothing to hide. He is a liar. I think that the more people look into the facts and the receipts, they’ll see it.
theGrio: Since our first story, we got a lot of people reaching out trying to understand how this whole thing started. Can you explain that Angela?
Davis: He found a conversation between me and another chef in the middle of the night, he was Googling his own name. He admits that in his own tweet and his own Instagram posts, he screen-shotted those comments critiquing his food that didn’t ‘@’ him directly.
It was a conversation between two people, and he put that on his Instagram page. Two different posts back to back, saying that this is an example of Black chefs not supporting each other so that his fans attacked me and my friend for the next week. That was the first interaction I had with Darius where he was harassing me. I blocked him after that interaction.
I asked not to be tagged with him when somebody tagged me in a tweet. He responded, ‘I don’t know why we can’t get along.’ Your work is dope. I don’t know what I could have done to make you upset. This is the same day that he posted those Instagram posts for me that caused me to be harassed online. This is his pattern of harassing women, and then hiding his hand and acting like he’s above it all.
Anderson: As for the ‘why now’ part of your question. I think it’s a real snowball effect and the gathering of more supporters. For me, having him on my show cooking for real back in the day, I believe like 2010 or so, I was on the network.
I really loved what the network was doing, which was adding more people of color. So I thought, the way I got on the network was going on Emeril [Lagasse‘s show] once and having a really good segment. Then I just chased down the dream.
My goal was lifting other people up when I get there. So for my season, they allowed me to have guests that were friends. Then I said, ‘But what about this one guy?’ I didn’t know Darius. He was not a friend. I had friends and family on … But I knew him from BlogSpot. He had a food blog, he reached out to me regularly in my comments, and I thought, let me give this guy a chance. So we had him on the show.
I will tell you, and I’ve said it many times, I thought he was great. I thought he was great. I thought he had the gift of gab. Sometimes people have it in person but when you put a camera in their face, it’s a different story. His recipes were simple and easy.
After he came on my show a couple of times, I was working with him and I have all the emails like, ‘Hey, man, you should try this, you should get on, let me tell you what to do.’ He was also actively interested. He was also, at the same time, simultaneously trying to get me to invest in his cupcake gallery and the new FreshCo business. I have those emails as well. I never did. I passed it on to my attorney [and it] didn’t pass the sniff test. I never invested.
In the meantime, he started those businesses, FreshCo, namely. I started getting messages from people on Twitter and my BlogSpot asking me what was up with this guy, they’ve seen him on my show, they made orders and they had erroneous charges. They had charges where they were ordering stuff and never got anything. I have an email from a woman, and I think some link someone sent me at the time. I keep these receipts. I don’t understand why anyone in business doesn’t keep their emails, and I don’t understand why he wouldn’t think that we would have proof.
So I called him up to ask him about what had happened with these customers. As soon as I asked him, he hung up. I mean, it was abrupt. I called back, he never picked up again. This was like, 2011. I didn’t think about this guy. I didn’t look into this guy.
In 2017, that’s when I’m on The Kitchen, and I get an email from my producers, saying that here’s a list of people we’re thinking about having on the new season as a guest. I saw his name and I was like, ‘You guys don’t want to be involved with this guy.’ Because as soon as he came on my show, he turned that opportunity into a chance to start a business, get more eyes on his business, and then he scams people.
So that’s why now, because Angela spoke up and she has a calvary of other women and other followers who have either dealt with him, or have dealt with people trying to silence them when they want to out an abuser or someone who has done them wrong. We are fired up. I think rightfully fired up for the right reasons. Because scam artists choose people they can scam and they choose the scams that work.
His scams are low dollar amounts, but just enough to get them money that adds up. So these people can either write it off mentally … they don’t have the time to chase down $200, $300. Or their bank reimburses them and they’re made whole so they just wipe their hands and move on. He does these trickle scams that add up to a lot. He depends on it. So if you send out a couple of legit deals to people, they can be your minions and your cults so they can tell everyone this guy is great. You can still pull in a couple of more people. That is truly how scam artists work.
If you look into scams, they try to fly under the radar of the level that they’re on. And understand scams come on all levels. So there’s Bernie Madoff where the level that they’re on, they can get people to invest five, six, seven figures, and it can fall under the radar because you’ve heard it. Some of these people were embarrassed.
See Darius isn’t doing thousand-dollar scams, he’s doing hundred-dollar scams. He’s a low-level scammer. He’s flourishing and it’s because of how these scams work. And so I’m very happy now that more people are coming out of the woodwork. Maybe we can get more eyes on it. Maybe either he gets shut down, or someone takes him in.
Sunny: Because the gig is up.
theGrio: That leads us sort of to, what can be the resolution? What does the resolution look like for the two of you, and what do you hope that people take away from what’s happening here?
Anderson: What I’d like to see — in addition to me being further distanced from this guy that I haven’t seen since 2011 — is that the people that he has received money from, and they have not received goods or services, that they are made whole. I think that whatever law enforcement organizations are, local or federal, look into him. But something needs to happen.
theGrio: Yeah, what about you, Angela?
Davis: I hope that the people that are still owed money, that there’s accountability for that, and that they are refunded or compensated in some way for their loss.
Like Sunny said, his audience is not millionaires, there were people that he was fixing their credit, allegedly. So these are people that were already struggling financially, that reached out to him for help. Those are the people that he scammed. Those are people that he took money from who couldn’t afford it.
There’s a screenshot like that … a woman asked for a $500 charge to be reversed because it hit when she couldn’t afford it. She had already told him that she wasn’t ready to proceed with the service. So you see these screenshots of her reaching out to him and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been asking you, you’re a millionaire, why would you treat your customer this way?’ I guess it caused an overdraft, it cost her to pay other bills.
Second, I want the people that never had an opportunity to speak up and confront him. If that’s what they choose to do … that they have their voices heard. I hope that the platforms he works on like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Shopify, wherever else he’s operating … that they look into these allegations of abuse, online abuse, especially fraud. Because if he’s using their platforms to carry out his scams, and to carry out his abuse, that’s something that they should take seriously. Because from what I understand it would violate the terms of service on all of those platforms.
Then finally, I would like other business owners and customers, just anybody that does business online, to learn from this and see that there are people scamming us and that it’s OK if you were scammed. It’s OK to speak out. It’s OK to say that this person who has a large following causes harm. We can’t continue to let it happen and in broad daylight.