From crabber to chef

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Leonard Daniels started cooking as a teenager. 

Veteran and former White House chef Jack Crosby of Walterboro took him under his wing when Daniels was about 15. “He taught me to be a man,” Daniels said. “Every day after school, I’d go there (to his store, Jack’s Tackle House, on Jefferies Highway) and he’d give me a little job. And he would cook for me, make me lunch. God, he could cook. And I’d watch him, see how he seasoned things. I always said I wanted to be like him.” He also learned a lot cooking with his mom, Christina Ford.

As an adult, Daniels started cooking for his friends and family. And last week, he became a commercial cook, producing his original sauce, “The King’s Sauce,” at the Colleton Commercial Kitchen.

The sauce originated about 10 years ago when Daniels started crabbing. He started with two crab pots, then finally got his own crab boat. When he started catching more crabs than he could sell, he reached out to his uncle, who owns Williams Seafood, who let him start cooking at his restaurant. And he started thinking about making a sauce for his crabs.

“I just started getting recipes and thinking about how I’d want it to taste,” he said. And he started texting people, saying “I’ve got some garlic butter that I’m putting on my crabs. People tasted it and it went viral.” He started cooking the sauce in his house and pretty soon, his yard was packed with people waiting for his crabs and sauce. “It just kept growing and growing, and it got too big for me, so then I went to my uncle,” he said.

Things were going great. But then life intervened. Daniels was diagnosed with cancer. He moved to Florida where he got treatment and miraculously, “God healed me of cancer.”

And he started back making sauce, but with a different twist. During his bout with cancer, he became more aware of the benefits of eating healthy. After examining his recipe, he decided to make it healthier, eliminating the butter and adding herbs that he’d found improved health. Cancer patients starting telling him they wanted jugs of his sauce because it was the only thing they could keep down during chemo treatments. 

His sales began to climb again, and he needed a way to produce the sauce in bulk to fill the orders. Enter the Colleton Commercial Kitchen. After figuring out the business ins and outs required, he started producing the sauce at the kitchen and selling it in the Colleton Farmers Market, as well as local grocery stores Piggly Wiggly, IGA, Foodland and H&D. He also has a website, leonardsseafood.com.

“I’m from a cooking family. This has long been a dream of mine, while standing in the cold catching those crabs. And the community has been with me from day one. I’m just a part of Walterboro. I love my community. They’ve been good to me and I’ve been good to them, the best I can,” Daniels said. “I just want to be a blessing. I’m not trying to get rich. I just want people to eat healthy.”

But at the end of the day, he said, “I’m just a local country boy that’s got sauce.” The King’s Sauce.

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