New York’s chef Deyana Canteen defies odds with retail brand.
The chaos caused by COVID-19 across the world resulted in many entrepreneurs changing course to keep their businesses going. Some had to close shop for good, others took a temporary hiatus, and yet others persevered, adapting to circumstances as best they could.
For New York-based, self-taught chef Deyana Canteen, that shift saw her turn to seasonings, sauces and cookware under the Canteen & Co. brand to move from cooking and catering jobs to creating culinary products to keep her business afloat.
Having launched Dee’s Kitchen in 2015, a pop-up-style restaurant and catering company serving up a chic and healthy alternative to comfort foods, she turned to packaging and selling her products to customers to continue sustaining valued relationships while also ensuring customers were afforded a taste of the flavors she was known for—all in the comfort of their own homes.
In fact, home is where Canteen first began sharing her affinity for cooking. Her culinary prowess was unveiled one year when she cooked a big surprise birthday dinner for her mother. Guests were impressed and she has been cooking for family and friends since.
Passion to Paycheck
When Canteen had her daughter five years ago, and the pregnancy restricted her movements to home, turning to cooking seemed a natural solution. “Everything started for me cooking from the comfort of my own home. My clientele grew from word of mouth,” she shares. Her customers hail from Brooklyn and Manhattan. Now, she is in the process of trying to get an incubator space to ramp up operations and hopes to have a food truck someday, something she has always wanted.
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“I never went to culinary school, which is surprising for a lot of people who ask me where I started cooking,” she adds. “I am the type of person who can watch something today and practice it tomorrow. I love cooking and the different colors of food.”
Her natural talent for playing with ingredients and dishes fanned the flames for a deeper dive into the restaurant business and industry. She attended a program where she learned the basics of business and applied for jobs in kitchens to learn the trade's ins and outs.
“It started making me wonder that I could go far with this. I got a food license and have been cooking ever since,” she shares. Canteen enjoys learning and cooking dishes from different cultures and has set a goal for herself to learn to prepare at least one dish from any culture to add to her repertoire.
With the pandemic, unable to continue with her pop-up appearances, she decided to branch out and launch Canteen & Co. so customers can bring a piece of their favorite Dee’s Kitchen dishes into their homes.
Presenting New Products
The brand ranges from custom seasoning blends to original recipe signature sauces and, most recently cookware. Canteen also shares recipes online via her blog and social media so you can learn how to use her products.
Her signature cast iron skillet comes in a chic matte black clad in smooth, vitrified porcelain, rendering each piece impervious to acid, alkali, odors and stains. “A skillet is something a lot of us use. I wanted to bring something back which I know is very good quality equipment to have—an all-purpose pan if you take good care of it,” she says.
The sauces and seasonings are composed of flavors and ingredients Canteen loves and uses in her own preparations. The custom blends, christened No.1, No.2 and No.3, are a concoction of herbs and spices, including garlic salt, pink salt and celery salt.
Have any health issues? Let her know and she can customize the blends to address your blood pressure or cholesterol concerns. She also sells a signature pasta sauce, fused seafood butter, featuring a zesty blend with cilantro, garlic and lime, and a creamy, sweet, tangy lobster sauce with yellow onion, paprika and garlic.
Although the pandemic brought along initial apprehensions, Canteen soon realized that people still have to eat. When asked about the operations and mindset transformation in moving from serving food in real-time to selling consumables online, she shares, “The pandemic taught me a lot, gave me more insight, helped me start my business as far as product lines right now and let me put my brain to motion and see what else I can add to the kitchen. People love my food, but I want them to know what I use and give them the advantage of time.”
Planning for Prosperity
Monies earned from catering and cooking have been reinvested toward the business as Canteen continues to grow her products and offerings. In the process, she has been able to sustain this twist to her plans during the pandemic financially.
Next in the works as far as products is an air fryer and possibly a cookbook. To scale the business, she is creating dishes to-go via meal prep where she can seal and ship fully cooked healthy frozen meals to clients. This, of course, is driven by demand from her loyal clientele looking for another way to access her healthy comfort food.
All they will need to do is defrost or heat contents in hot water to consume. At the time of this interview, Canteen was in research and development mode on this venture, excited for her 2021 plans to take flight.
If there is one thing that she is sure about, it is that her business will prosper from here, and she has bigger plans for it. “I am big on trying things. It is better to try and fail than never try. Trying something different can either make me or break me,” she says. “I know that it’s going to get bigger than what it is. It’s just going to take its own course and time.”
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For more information on Canteen & Co., follow along for updates on Instagram.