When New United Motors Manufacturing Incorporated closed its doors last spring, Duncan was faced with unemployment and was forced to think about the next step. He didn’t have to think long before his answer arrived. Since he wasn’t employed, he finally had the time to pursue his dream and open a restaurant.
“I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant,” Duncan said, “but it never seemed like the right time, so I did other things. I catered on the side. But when I found myself without a job, I also found myself with an opportunity to follow a dream. I decided in July that I was going to go for it, and we opened in December.”
Bobby D’s Restaurant and Custom Catering began serving down-home Southern soul food on Dec. 6, but it wasn’t until last week that a wave of New Orleans’ hospitality came bursting through the doors in the form on Antioch resident chef LeRoy Crump – and the restaurant took on new life.
While Duncan was serving up meals cooked in a Northern Louisiana style, Crump has brought his Southern Louisiana cooking to the mix, creating a “Louisiana infusion” that’s got mouths watering when they’re not busy spreading the word about Bobby D’s.
Duncan met Crump a year ago when Crump, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, was working as executive chef at an Oakley restaurant. Duncan was impressed with Crump’s barbecue ribs and the two became friends, sharing their passion for cooking. Crump’s cooking was in high demand, but he couldn’t find a restaurant that was the right fit for him – until he saw the sign above Duncan’s restaurant.
“He told me he wanted to open his own place, so I was driving by one day and I see the name Bobby D’s above the door and I stopped in to try the food, and I was excited,” Crump recalled. “Together we could bring Northern and Southern Louisiana flavor together and bring a whole new style of soul food to this area. You won’t find that at any other restaurant around here – not even in the entire Bay Area.”
Duncan was born in Louisiana and moved to California as a child. But every summer he spent in Louisiana with his grandmother was an opportunity to learn more cooking secrets, and he developed an unexpected love for the local cuisine.
“When I was young, the tradition was that the elders were served first and the children were served last, so I figured if I helped cook, I’d get to eat sooner,” Duncan said. “I started helping in the kitchen, and I could prepare a Thanksgiving dinner by myself by the time I was 12 years old. I love to cook because you get to experiment and try new things, but my favorite part is serving others and watching them enjoy a meal.”
Crump shares Duncan’s love for cooking and together they’ve formed a collaborative team whose goal is to knock the socks off East County’s taste buds. While Crump has worked at many restaurants, including that of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, he said Duncan is his best boss ever.
“I feel like part of a team here,” Crump explained. “Bobby asks for my input and he genuinely wants my opinion. That really means a lot –”
“I’d be a fool not to ask your opinion with all the experience you have,” Duncan interjected. “I’m still new to all this.”
The two have known each other for only a year, but the way they converse gives the impression they’ve been friends for years. While they don’t agree on everything (Crump is still trying to convince Duncan to introduce alligator bites to the menu, while Duncan wants Crump to try a breakfast made with brown eggs), the two weave through the kitchen with dance-like fluidity as they take orders and prepare food. As the restaurant is new and Duncan and Crump expose customers to new dishes, the menu is constantly evolving. But they agree that the barbecue ribs and tri-tip are the favorites. For customers with room for dessert, Duncan is an accomplished pastry chef who makes fresh red velvet cake, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.
The menu features an array of side dishes including potato salad, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, plus coleslaw. Main courses range from barbecued pulled pork sandwiches to fried chicken to seafood gumbo and blackened catfish.
“We’ve received such positive feedback from the customers,” Duncan said. “We’ve got some people who come in every day to try new things or see what the daily special is. And they’re not shy to share what they think of the food, either. It’s always great when customers offer constructive criticism because it lets me know what I can work on. To me, a recipe is never complete. There’s always something new to try, and I’m excited that I get to share these new creations with the community.”
Bobby D’s Restaurant and Custom Catering is located at 1635 A St. in Antioch. For more information, call 925-775-4025 or visit www.bobbydscustomcatering.com.