'The crab cakes gon get you': Meet the FWB chef Jamie Foxx praised after dinner in Destin

Savannah Evanoff
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — Brandon Knight never saw himself preparing a meal for Jamie Foxx at a rental property in Destin.

To be fair, though, he never saw himself becoming Chef BK or owning his own business as an in-home personal chef, either. But all three of those things happened, and did so in a way he never could have seen coming.

Foxx booked Chef BK: A Knight of Fine Dining while he visited Northwest Florida on Memorial Day weekend. Knight posted a video with Foxx on social media, in which Foxx raves about the business saying, “best food ever.”

“The thing is, everybody has their journey,” Knight said. “All the hard work that I put in before that booking, it just all made sense. When you grind, you see where you’re at and you know the work that it takes to get to that point, right? When you finally get to that stage and you hit the personal record or whatever depth you're reaching for, it’s like, ‘Wow, all that was worth it. It was necessary.’ That’s what it was with Jamie Foxx.”

Knight has since quit a full-time job to focus solely on his business.

Growing up in Sylvania Heights 

Knight doesn’t hesitate to describe the first three decades of his life in clichés.

The Fort Walton Beach native wasn’t born with a silver spoon. He came from the mud. He beat the odds, he said.

But ultimately, he deems it a success story.

Chef BK, Brandon Knight, worked at a number of restaurants before he decided on his path was as a chef-entrepreneur.

Rightfully so.

Knight was raised by his grandmother, Martha Jean, who took him to Beulah First Baptist Church. Knight's mother had her own issues to deal with, he said.

Knight will turn 34 this year, yet he can only recollect seeing his father five times total in his life. His father lives in Crestview, so you can gather the rest, he said.

“A young man growing up without a father, that's a tough pill to swallow,” Knight said. “I had to deal with that a lot growing up, but my grandmother did a hell of a job of raising me. But you tend to stray to the other side because a woman can only do so many things for young man. As you get older, you go out there and want to find things and do things on your own.”

Knight played football and basketball at Fort Walton Beach High School. He had big dreams of playing in the NBA, or some other cliché of the sort, he said.

But he got caught up in some things, he said.

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“The neighborhood that we grew up in was Lovejoy, so drug infested, crime infested, so it’s right outside your door,” Knight said. “For the longest (time), I avoided it. But then as I grew and got older, you want to have things on your own. You understand that your grandmother can’t afford the things that you want. You understand that, but then again, you want to have shoes, nice shoes, nice clothes.”

Knight had shoes, he said; he just wanted more. So he sold drugs, starting with marijuana in high school. Crack cocaine and pills came later.

“That was the easiest thing to do, because it's right there outside my front door,” Knight said.

Don’t misunderstand. Knight wasn’t pressured into anything.

“The drug dealers out there, they knew that I was an athlete and they always told me, ‘Don't do this. Don't do that,’ ” Knight said. “It was never pressure. I chose everything I've done so far. I've chose and decided to do it on my own.”

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Knight graduated high school in 2006 and got a basketball scholarship at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton, Alabama. The point guard only lasted a month in college. He was kicked out after brawling with a teammate.

Again, don’t misunderstand, Knight wouldn’t change a thing.

“You never know what your path is going to be,” he said. “The path that I've taken and where I’m at now, man, I would do it all over again, without thinking twice about it.”

Knight came back home, which is when he ventured into selling crack cocaine, which, of course, is a harder drug that marijuana, he said. He smoked weed, but said he didn’t actually take any of the other drugs he sold.

Knight received a sale charge in 2007. It was jarring, but he wouldn’t call it scary.

“You already know what you're getting into,” Knight said. “It’s just a matter of time. Because at the end of the day, I was doing what was best for me at that time under the circumstances that I was in, the environment.”

Knight didn’t go to jail that time. He ended up on a wanted ad.

He went on the run, earned some money to bond himself and turned himself in a few months later.

“We went into Shalimar — it was Shalimar at the time — got my fingerprints and everything and walked right on out,” Knight said. “They gave me a court date. That was the start of pretty much getting things on track.”

Hitting the reset button with Pastor J

Knight wanted out. If he was going to make a change, he needed somewhere else to do it.

Johnathan Sansom, a man well-known in the community as Pastor J, gave him that way out. 

Knight first met Pastor J as chaplain for the Fort Walton Beach High School football team. Who Sansom saw then is the same man he sees now.

“BK’s always been who BK is; he hasn’t changed any,” Sansom said. “He was a driven young man. If he had his mind set on doing something, that’s what he was going to do.”

When they reconnected later, Sansom had just started Gulf Coast City Church and was hosting services in the Fort Walton Beach High School auditorium. Knight had graduated, but his cousin still played high school basketball.

“I went to go check out a game and talk with Pastor J, and then from that conversation, I pretty much moved in with Pastor J,” Knight said. “I did that because I knew that I needed to change my environment.”

"It wasn’t the best situation for him," Sansom said. "That’s where he got in trouble was that neighborhood. He didn’t want to put himself back in that neighborhood."

He lived with Sansom from 2007 to 2010.

“Being in that environment, just uplifting encouragement and just getting back to the word,” Knight said. “Because I grew up with my grandmother, so, of course, she had me in the church. So that never went away from me, but I strayed away from it. So I had to get back aligned with what I was taught and how I was raised. Pastor J helped me get to that point of getting new friends and acquainted with different people.”

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Unfortunately, that wasn’t the turning point of the story, Knight explained.

He was still selling drugs; not at Pastor J’s house, but somewhere else after work.

“When you're selling drugs, you see the money that you can make, in one day selling drugs versus working the whole week at a job,” Knight said. “And of course, you ain't paying no taxes. There’s consequences behind it if you get caught, but I’ll worry about that later.”

Knight was pulled over in 2010 with a couple ounces of marijuana and 15 grams bagged up for resale and ended up in the Okaloosa County Jail.

“That was the time when I said, ‘You know what, it's time to get myself together,’ ” Knight said. “From that moment, I started picking up the pieces to get right. I said, ‘I will do everything the right way. I will get a job. I know it's going to be a long road, tough road, to get to where I want to be, but I’ll take that sacrifice.’”

Now, looking back at the past 10 years, he knows it was worth it.

Sansom could not be more proud, he said.

“I know what he’s had to go through. I know what he’s endured. I know the setbacks. I know the people who have made promises and not followed through,” Sansom said. “Most are seeing what he’s doing now, ‘Wow, look at what you’ve done with your life,’ but they really don’t know what he’s had to endure to come to the place he is now in.”

From the fryers to fine dining

Knight started from the metaphorical bottom of the kitchen: the fryers.

He started cooking as a high schooler in 2005 at Yardbirds in Fort Walton Beach. He worked his way up, from dishwashing at Harbor Docks in Destin to cooking at The Wine Bar in Destin, where he was exposed to finer foods.

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“Working there opened my horizons, so I started growing to love food,” Knight said. “Because at the time, I was just cooking for a job because that was all that was pretty much around here. Being exposed to different types of food and coursed-out menus is what made me grow into my passion to love food.”

Plus, he’s a people person.

Knight shuffled from working a year at the Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club, back to The Wine Bar and then for a six-month stint doing quality control for a roofing company in Jacksonville.

Chef BK, an in-home personal chef, prepares salads for A Knight of Fine Dining.

“You’re trying to find your way. You really don't know what you want to do, but you're working through it, and I always found my way back into the kitchen,” Knight said. “I was making $25 an hour as a quality control manager, but I wasn't happy. Came back home and found my way back in the kitchen.”

He returned during the offseason, which put him right back where he started as a dishwasher. Then a former co-worker and friend contacted him.

“He was like, ‘Hey man, I'm a sous-chef over here at the Henderson Beach and Spa Resort. It was always great working with you. You were always a hard worker and I would love to work with you again,’” Knight said. “It was like a week before his wedding, we went to the bar had a couple of drinks and I filled out the application on his phone at the bar.”

Fort Walton Beach native Brandon Knight quit his full-time job to pursue his business, Chef BK: A Knight of Fine Dining.

A few days later, Knight got a call from The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa to start the interview process.

“I had to cook for the chef, all the chefs pretty much, a lunch plate and a dinner entrée plate,” Knight said. 

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He worked there 2 1/2 years before quitting to focus exclusively on Chef BK. So far, he loves it.

“Creating the business, I had to love what I do, because if I didn’t, it’s like, ‘I have to do it,’ ” Knight said. “You don't want to do that. We do enough of that already every day doing things that we have to do. It's time to do things that we want to do. Having your own business, it's a job in itself, but the reward is greater, and the fulfillment of it because you get to create and do what you want to do.”

While Knight admits he is more likely to create a sandwich or take a trip to LongHorn Steakhouse than whip up a fancy meal for himself, the kitchen is his domain. He loves to prepare fine dining for others.

“You already know what you’re creating before you even see it,” Knight said. “I have a certain way of how do things.”

Chef BK cooks and serves dinners in people's homes.

The secret is in knowing the cook times, or how long dishes take to cook, Knight said.

“If you're not a cook, you really don't pay attention to the cook times,” Knight said. “I have that down to a T pretty much of when things tend to get done and be ready.”

Knight never paid much attention to cooking earlier in his life.

“I didn’t foresee myself being where I’m at and doing what I'm doing right now,” Knight said.

Launching Chef BK

Knight got his first taste as an in-home chef while working a side job with a friend who owns a catering and event planning company.

“When COVID hit, she reached out to me and she said ‘BK, would you want to do a four-course dinner at a family's house? The chef that they normally use is booked up,’ ” Knight said. “I had never actually went into somebody else's house to cook other than my family's or friends', so that was the only nervousness that I had about it because I don't know these people. It’s different. Are they gonna like my food?”

Knight cooked for them in June 2020. He brought an experienced server with him, too.

Most chefs don’t.

“The guy, the husband, he asked me, he's like, ‘How long have y'all been doing this?’ or something like that,” Knight said. “I was like, ‘We tend to get dinners.’ I’m just shooting the BS, so to say, because it was my first gig but I didn’t want them to know it was my first gig. The way we handled it, it felt like we'd been doing that for a while to them.”

After that night, Knight couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Chef BK, Brandon Knight, is reflected in the window of his SUV. He prepares in-home dinner for clients, which have included actor Jamie Foxx.

“The next day, I'm brainstorming, coming up with a name, a logo,” Knight said. “Once that light bulb switched on, from that day to right now is just crazy. It’s hard to fathom. You see it from a little drop of pen on the paper to what you see now.”

Chef BK, a Knight of Fine Dining, was a play on his last name.

“A Knight of fine dining means it’s just an experience I’m bringing to you,” Knight said. “It’s not the fine dining portions if you go to the fine dining or (how) you see it on TV, where you get a small taste of so many courses. No, I'm actually feeding you. I do a four-course meal, and it's just the experience of me bringing the restaurant to your house, with the server to serve the guests.”

Brandon Knight, aka Chef BK, sorts through silverware in the back of his SUV. Chef BK provides silverware, glasses,, plates and, of course, fine food for his clients.

Knight started with a few glasses and plates and upgraded to the equivalent of a small restaurant’s worth of storage at his house that he transports in his SUV.

“I take the plates, the glasses, the silverware, napkins,” Knight said. “I bring your own personalized menus. I try to put that personal touch so it’s fun for the client; it has that wow factor, and they love it. When people reach out to me to inquire about a booking, they don't really understand when I say I bring the restaurant to you. I actually get there and they be like, ‘Man, what is all this?’ ‘I said I'll bring the restaurant to you.’ ”

Knight’s grandmother helps him, Knight said.

“If I need help packing stuff up, washing dishes, at an event, she'll come and help me and watch,” Knight said. “She loves it. She raised me and you go through life man and you want the best for your kids, grandkids and stuff like that, but everybody is not going to always take that straight path. I believe I’m making her proud now. I've always made her proud, but of course everybody get into things that you're not so happy about, but it's all about getting back on the right track.”

Knight will host his largest event thus far with more than 70 guests in August, and she will help.

Knight has five set menus: pasta, chicken, two seafood options and surf and turf. Each menu has a different entrée, appetizer, salad, sides, but people can mix and match. He also offers many dessert options.

Fort Walton Beach native Brandon Knight sells his "Chef BK's famous crab cakes" on social media weekly.

The most popular is the seafood menu, which features “Chef BK’s famous crab cakes,” he said. He sells them as a side hustle at two for $30 uncooked or $35 cooked.

“I have my own recipe and my own remoulade recipe,” Knight said. “I’ve got some of the best ones around. Everybody says Maryland has the best crab cakes, but I put my crab cakes against anybody.”

Brandon Knight whips up Chef BK's famous crab cakes, which he offers on his seafood menu and sells on social media.

In the video Knight posted, Foxx specifically praises the crab cakes, saying, “The crab cakes gon get you now.”

Knight has confidence in what he does, but positive feedback is still nice, Knight said.

“Sometimes when they don't talk it's good; sometimes when they don't talk it's bad,” Knight said. “You never know what they’ll say or they’re thinking, so that's the thing is that being a cook, being a chef, you're waiting on the ‘aha’ moment or for the people to say, ‘Oh, man, that was amazing,’ so that’s what I'm waiting on the entire time. Sometimes they give it to you right off the bat; sometimes it'd be once they completed all four courses. So far, just a blessing that I've had no complaints.”

A Knight of Fine Dining with Jamie Foxx

Like any new business, Chef BK started slow.

Knight gets it. He started a niche business in the middle of a pandemic. He would have been happy with only one client the first year, he said.

Chef BK is not catering; it’s an in-home personal chef.

“It’s just a different service,” Knight said. “Everybody values things differently. It's just all about finding those people that value what I'm doing.”

Chef BK, an in-home personal chef, prepares a salad.

His first client was in August 2020, and he continued to book slowly through April.

“They love it,” Knight said. “It's all about presentation, professionalism and the quality I’m giving you.”

Knight was still working full time at The Henderson in May.

“I get a phone call from one of my buddies I grew up with,” he said. “He said, ‘I'm just letting you know, if you get a phone call and the lady says it’s for Jamie Foxx, don't think it's a scam.’”

Sure enough, Foxx’s representative called. Foxx hired Knight to cook for them for four days. Knight only ended up cooking dinner for them twice because it was their first time in Destin, he said.

“I still can't believe that I cooked for him because is it Jamie Foxx, two-time Oscar winner,” Knight said. “Like, how did he get my information? Well, it's all about building quality relationships at the end of the day.”

Knight’s childhood friend worked for the company that Foxx booked his rental house from. It was a great experience, Knight said.

“He’s laid back, down to earth like on TV,” Knight said. “He's the same dude.”

The second night Knight cooked dinner for Foxx, he got to hang out with him.

“He’s telling jokes, he's singing, he's doing movie scenes,” Knight said. “I couldn't believe that I was in the presence of Jamie Foxx and I’m getting all this that people pay for, pay a lot of money for him to do, and I'm getting this for free. And I'm getting paid as well. Wow, man it’s like, ‘I can't believe it.’ ”

The 30-second video featuring Foxx is an unofficial commercial for Chef BK.

“It’s still the beginning,” Knight said. “I just hit a year, but having Jamie Foxx vouch for me within my first year of business, I can use that video for the rest of my life while I'm in business.”

No, Knight isn’t where he once saw himself; it’s better.

“I always knew I would do something great, but I just didn't know what it was going to be,” Knight said. “It was just a matter of time of putting everything together and creating something.”

Find out more at thechefbk.com.