Nestled away in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, you will find an orange and grey building producing an aroma not to be found in many places on the east bank. If you have spent any time in the area of 1401 St. Bernard Ave., you are probably familiar with the aroma and the name Dee’s Xquisite Seafood. Owned and operated by New Orleans native Demond Matthews, Dee’s Xquisite offers a menu including Dungeness Crab, Steak, Shrimp, Lobster, and Snow Crabs featuring their world famous garlic butter sauce. Now, with visitors pouring in roughly by the thousands, Matthews found that a little luck or “God intervention” as he would tell you played a major part in the restaurant’s current success.
Growing up in the now razed Florida Housing Development, Matthews formerly worked as a mental health technician at University Hospital and as a volunteer football coach prior to launching Dee’s Xquisite. He had been always known by close friends as somewhat of a ‘busy body.’ “Most people who know me always knew I was up to something” Matthews explained. “I was always a ‘busy body’ dude. I was always an idea type person. I felt like I was always one of them people who had great ideas but with no money to pursue or try to chase them ideas. Lot of people who know me they know I am a motivated guy. I don’t stop. I keep going. I try to do whatever it is I need to do to get to wherever I am going.”
Matthews recognizes the contributions of his closest friends and family members as part of his business success and also remembers his humble beginnings even before Dee’s Xquisite has now garnered national attention. Part of a family of business owners, it was one of Matthews’ brothers that recognized the potential he (Demond) had for becoming a business owner because of his great ideas. “My brother who cuts my hair would always tell me how long are you going to work there?” Matthews stated. “You always have these crazy ideas. You deserve to be your own boss. Why are you still working there? I have those types of brothers. Even though I would pay my brother back, one day he told me I’m not loaning you any more money until you quit your job and you take this serious.”
It did not take long before Matthews began to take those ideas seriously. Matthews, who acknowledges seafood was not his first idea prior to the success he now enjoys, realizes how important his faith in God played in his humble beginnings. “I never thought it would be seafood. We lucked up putting crabs on the grill. We were watching a saints game and we were just grilling steaks and chicken. We had some snow crabs in the freezer and my boys was like how are we going to warm this up?” Matthews stated. “I said just put them right there. Put them in the pan and sit them (snow crabs) on the grill. We let them smoke for about 20 or 30 minutes (because they were frozen) and before you know it everyone was running in there saying taste these crabs from off the grill. Then, I started playing around with some butter and then said I am going to call these chargrilled crabs.”
Unlike many of his peers in the restaurant industry, Matthews has a solid relationship with many of his young black employees whom he has known from an early age or been friends with since the beginning. Matthews employs a group of all black men and woman while stressing the importance of continuity and solidarity in the workplace. The goal has always been to push his group of employees to be great as employees and as future business owners themselves. Matthews has several employees who have succeeded in starting their own businesses already with more on the way. “Everyone has their own goal in what they want to do. They know that eventually we will have to part ways but that is the plan.” Matthews explained. “If anybody is working for you and you don’t want to see them (employees) become bigger than you or better than you; you shouldn’t have them working for you.”
Matthews’ future vision for Dee’s Xquisite includes expanding his restaurant to include multiple locations throughout the city of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and at some point reaching outside the state of Louisiana. Although some locations are still in the works and details can not be shared at this time, Matthews knows and believes it is only a matter of time before Dee’s Xquisite becomes a household name among the best restaurants in the U.S. “We have a location that I feel like is going to be a surprise for the city. We are not going to release it (details) until we finish the construction. It’s a move that is going to put me amongst the top names like Popeyes and Burger King. I feel like there is not going to be a reason for people to come to New Orleans and not be able to reach me. It’s going to be a real nice place in the heart of the city and hopefully I can have it done before these festivals come up.”
As long as Matthews continue to allow his faith and patience guide the decisions for his restaurant, Dee’s Xquisite will no doubt become a household name throughout Louisiana and the United States as he envisions it.