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From Recipes to Receipts, Darius “Cooks” Williams Denies Claims That He Is a “Crook”

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In an exclusive interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, culinary guru Darius “Cooks” Williams addresses the blistering allegations leveled against him that range from stealing money, illegal credit repair practices, bullying Black women, ripping off business partners, and reportedly scamming so many people that it garnered the hashtag “DariusCrooks.”

Williams, a popular former restauranteur, rose to fame as a Chicago-based food blogger, Food Network television host, and cookbook author, who began with a cupcake shop and parlayed it into several multimillion-dollar businesses and restaurants from Chicago to Atlanta.

While Williams has flourished online as evidenced by his 3+million followers across Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, coupled with his lively cooking demos and mail-order Carolina Pound Cakes, lately he’s been under fire and with damning accusations of engaging in deceptive business practices and running scams that have left people high and dry.

There are varying degrees of allegations leveled against him that also include claims of harassment and credit card fraud. And there is momentum kicking up online from people like celebrity Food Network star Sunny Anderson and popular food aficionado Angela “The Kitchenista” Davis, who have been scooping stories, cracking open dozens of cases, and whipping up witnesses who say that they too have been bamboozled in one way or another by the popular chef.

Last year Williams’s businesses Soul Crab Atlanta and Soul Crab Chicago, as well as Greens and Gravy in Atlanta abruptly closed. Williams was also involved in an illegal credit repair business and the State of Georgia ordered him to pay $145,750 as a settlement agreement.

To that claim, Williams says simply: “I paid the 140, it’s over, everything is cool,” he told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
He continued: “I think they’re pulling from that saying oh, he’s a scammer. But it’s like no, the people who were on the roster, their credit scores increased,” he contends.

However, things ignited online after Southern Grit Magazine ran a damaging story recently that outlined a number of claims from former employees, Anderson and “The Kitchenista” who all allege that Williams is a charismatic “con artist” who capitalized off them and shook up their lives and ruined the lives of many others.

Anderson said angry people who had their credit cards overcharged confronted her thinking she was entangled with a FreshGo delivery business with Williams—which he denies he ever owned. The Kitchenista said Williams has resorted to bullying and she said he used her trademarked name for profit—which he confirms he did out of spite.

Also, a growing consensus of people online allege that they have been retaliated against by Williams for speaking out about his “deceptive practices.” Even in this article, several people spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear that if they revealed their name, they would risk being doxed or harassed by Williams or his faithful followers.

In fact, the Editor in Chief of Southern Grit Magazine, Joshua Fitzwater, went live this past Saturday to address the percolating bloodlust from Williams’s online community who have reportedly issued threats against veteran reporter Deb Freeman after she broke the initial story about Williams that picked up traction by other news outlets online, including Black Enterprise.

Despite their concerns, Williams says, “I am not a bully.”

He defends his character and his businesses against the barrage of what he considers to be “untruthful” claims.
“I think what’s happening is, it’s the people who may not be familiar with my brand, because some of the hate mail I’m getting… you know, stop abusing Black women, keep your hands off Black women…and I’m openly gay but I don’t come across as gay,” he explains.

“So, my speech, my mannerisms look to be that of a straight man,” he said. “So, if you’re not familiar with me, and you just see my content, you would automatically assume, Black man hitting (on) a Black woman. In reality, I’m openly gay. I talk about sex and a lot of stuff on my Instagram. I talk about dating. I talk about things women want to discuss. I’m like their best friend.”

And it’s that intoxicating personality that has earned the Chicago native his large following with Black women who consider him to be the boyfriend-bae next door. Williams, wrapped in chocolatey-smooth, sun-kissed skin, has an infectious, Cheshire cat grin. He has made a name for himself in a competitive foodie space of online chefs, having been self-taught to burn in the kitchen by hanging close to his grandmother’s hip.
But Sunny Anderson who is saddled with remorse for introducing Williams to her international Food Network audience on her show, Cooking For Real, says don’t be fooled by the “snake oil” salesman.

Former Employees Claim Williams Left Them High and Dry

During the lengthy interview, Williams addressed one particular accusation that he “abused” a former employee by the name of Kiara Ross, who worked at his now-shuttered Soul Crab Atlanta restaurant as a server. Ross took to social media to share her story after Angela, “The Kitchenista” posted a laundry list of claims about Williams after the two had beef online.

Ross wrote that Williams abused her and tried to drag her from the restaurant after she confronted him about her paycheck. The cops were called and a police report was filed.

Williams said he didn’t know Ross when she confronted him about her coins.

“I didn’t know her. My first time ever meeting her or seeing her in life was that particular Friday when I walked into the restaurant and when I walked in, she was very irate and she said, where’s my m*****f****** check,’” he said.

Williams said he had three restaurants, 110 employees and was unaware of any personnel issues with Ross.

“I am not running the day-to-day of the restaurant. I’m doing more strategy, more CEO work so I had managers who would hire all of the employees. And so we have an electronic payroll system called Gusto and Kiara never completed her onboarding,” he explained as the reason why she didn’t receive her paycheck.

Williams said he was the one who called the police.

Once the officer arrived, Williams said the confrontation escalated, and he alleged even after Ross was warned by officers not to go back inside his restaurant she did and, “They put her in handcuffs, put her in a car and took her away.”

“What she said to the officer was, ‘he put his m*****f******* hands on me. So he (the officer) was like, did you? And I was like I actually don’t know because it all happened so fast so let’s go look at the camera, let’s see what I did.”

Williams said he reviewed the video footage with the officer and admits, “So I did put my hands on her but I put both hands on her shoulders to kinda turn her so we could go discuss this outside. So the extent of the quote-on-quote abuse is basically me putting two hands on her shoulders so that we could go outside,” Williams admits.

He said although there is a picture circulating showing him walking alongside an officer, Williams says he was never formally arrested and charged.

Although Williams dismissed the dust-up with Ross as an isolated incident, a former employee explained that Soul Crab Atlanta was dysfunctional in more ways than one.

A former employee, who was the kitchen manager at Soul Crab Atlanta who spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE on the condition of anonymity, said she ran Soul Crab Atlanta for Williams and experienced “hell” and even had to take money out of her “own pocket” to keep up operations.

The employee explained that Soul Crab Atlanta was so dirty and rat-infested that it couldn’t pass several state inspections. The employee said she worked hard with her crew to keep things above-board for inspectors while Williams was away on vacation but still couldn’t get it up to code because he cut corners.

“I’m patching stuff up. I got my whole crew in there on a Monday, cleaning and doing everything and Darius is on vacation in Dubai and literally, I’m in charge of a whole damn restaurant with 30 friggin’ employees and you in Dubai and we’ve got a major inspection tomorrow and you are overseas,” the anguished former employee said.

“He was so focused on getting Soul Crab Chicago going, not realizing that Soul Crab Atlanta was failing,” she said. “We serve people and we have a rat problem,” she admits.

The employee explained that as a storm was brewing inside the restaurant with the state on the case and angling to shut the grimy food spot down, her only option was to talk to Williams through Skype and video messages.

“And so when the people (health inspectors) came in, they failed it!” she said. “His license wasn’t up to par. He owed almost $25,000 to the light department. So when they handed me the letter saying that lights was getting ready to get cut-off, $25K or we’re cutting off the lights, I told my crew go home. Cut em’ off.”

She continues: “He’s done so many people wrong that karma is biting his a** right now. He’s left so many people on stuck, not just Soul Crab Atlanta, you left Soul Crab Chicago stuck. You left Greens and Gravy stuck. Three restaurants. You left them people with no paychecks for months. It took them threatening to sue you before you even gave them an allowance because it wasn’t their full paycheck. So you just gave them whatever the hell you wanted to give them. To hell with my payroll, hell with everything.”

Another former employee, who was a line cook at Soul Crab Atlanta who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she has two children, who were five and 17-years-old at the time and was left nearly homeless after Williams shuttered Soul Crab Atlanta suddenly.

“I literally had to move out of my place and go stay with somebody,” she said. “I went from being a line cook to a shift leader making good money to having nothing.”

The former employee asked: “How he didn’t do wrong when he just closed his business at five o’clock in the morning when I was literally getting ready for work?”

Another former employee of Williams took to social media and complained saying she used to bake his Carolina Pound Cakes and ship them, and worked in poor conditions while earning mere pennies.

More employees have taken to social media to air out their grievances and sour experiences with Williams.

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Williams cited in an online statement that he was dealing with “mental health issues,” and other health factors that contributed to the closing of his restaurant. But the former Soul Crab kitchen manager determined that was a “lie.”

“It wasn’t none of that,” the former kitchen manager said.

Better Business Bureau and Above 701 Credit Repair Complaints

However, some people have lodged Better Business Bureau complaints against Williams and say those grievances have fallen flat because he refuses to provide a physical address to the BBB and won’t verify his account and therefore the bureau can’t address concerns.

Williams admits that he doesn’t answer BBB complaints and explains that he’s unwilling to do so for a number of reasons.

“So I typically don’t respond to BBB’s only because there’s so much more that goes along with it, right,” Williams begins.

People say, “I didn’t get my refund and I refund to the credit card that’s on file. That credit card or debit card that was on file belongs to a bank that either they are no longer with, or they owed the bank money and the bank is recouping their funds. That’s happened quite a few times where people maybe have overdrawn an account and they’re like ‘I never got the refund.’ So those are some of the issues. You gotta call the manufacturer or whoever the card issuer is to deal with that. That’s typically what it’s been,” he says.
“This is what happens when you run a multi-million dollar organization. You just get all this sh*t that just comes man.”

When asked why would people would make widespread allegations of fraud if there is none, Williams responded: “What I would like to know is the first and last name of the people making these claims. When I go on live I say if you’ve been scammed what is your first and last name so we can deal with how you’ve been scammed. Nobody comes forward,” he said.

“If you go on my platform, nobody is complaining that they didn’t get their book. Nobody is complaining that they didn’t get their cake. Nobody is complaining that their credit score didn’t increase,” he said. “To be honest with you, the Kitchenista and Sunny Anderson are looking at public records. They are looking at the consent judgment for Above 701, misinterpreting that and saying that ‘he scammed people.’ And the consent judgment doesn’t say ‘he’ scammed anybody. ‘He’ did the work. Their credit score definitely increased. ‘He’ just shouldn’t have been doing it in the state of Georgia. So as a settlement, this is the amount we are going to charge him.”

Contrary to Williams’ claim that he did not “scam” people, the State of Georgia concluded that he did and not only reprimanded Williams for running an illegal credit repair business called Above 701, but in the complaint cited that Williams’s company further violated Georgia law by:
• requesting and accepting payment from consumers for its credit repair services before those services were provided; and
• making misleading claims that it could get bankruptcies and debts permanently deleted from consumers’ credit reports, without adequately disclosing that negative credit information cannot be erased from a consumer’s credit report if the information is accurate.

Sunny Anderson and Williams FreshGo Controversy

Anderson claims that Williams had a FreshGo business where it promised to deliver fresh vegetables on the doorstep of customers but people bombarded her with angry messages, claiming they were ripped off and overcharged on their credit cards. They hit up Anderson because she had him on her show years ago.

Anderson said she gave Williams the benefit of the doubt but says he refused to answer her inquiries.

“The bottom line is before me, no one on TV knew of him and he didn’t have a platform to build what he built. Just imagine if you could do it the right way with the talent and the ability to galvanize people. Why wouldn’t you want to do it the right way?” she asked.

Anderson said she took part in a Zoom meeting, organized by The Kitchenista, with other Black women chefs and was floored by what she heard.

“A lot of Black women who are eager to get their careers started are being taken advantage of. One person on that call had direct dealings with him and we were all just crying,” she shared.

Last year, Anderson said when she posted that people should beware when dealing with Williams because of his “scams,” she said he and his attorneys sent a cease and desist letter that she countered with a letter from her attorney stating that since the attorney general found that he was engaged in illegal credit repair activities, Anderson had a right to call him a scammer on her platform to describe him.

In retaliation, Williams sold his cookbooks with the discount codes “Sunny” and “Bad Wig,” she said.

Even though Anderson says people approached her about his FreshGo business, Williams proclaims that he has no ties to FreshGo, doesn’t know what it is, and never had any affiliation with it.

“I have no idea what she’s talking about,” Williams said about FreshGo which is also referred to as Fresh2Go and FreshGoNow. “I had a cupcake shop and I had a pie shop,” he said. Williams said he believes Anderson is “jealous” of him after he claims producers wanted him to do more shows.

Anderson denies that and says she is the one who put him on and only wanted to see him succeed but had to cut ties when people associated her with his “fraudulent” companies. Anderson said nobody got food with FreshGo and instead people complained of small incremental, unauthorized charges.

BLACK ENTERPRISE followed up and asked Williams directly, “Do you know anything about this (FreshGo) being associated with you?”

“Nothing,” Williams replied.

He continued: “Really, that’s what I’m saying. That’s why I would love to know from Sunny what I ever did to her.”
After further investigation, The Kitchenista provided a 2012 screenshot of Darius Williams promoting FreshGo, saying, “It’s a great day to #ShopFreshGo” back in 2012.

FreshGo

(Screenshot, The Kitchenista)

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Another person complained that they too got caught up in the FreshGo whirlwind and lost money dealing with Darius.

“She blocked me,” he said about Anderson.

“I never to this day blocked Sunny Anderson. I follow people like Sunny Anderson and still do look up to her to a degree. But look up to people like Sunny Anderson because these are the people who are blazing the trails for people like me to come behind so I looked up to her. I followed her on Instagram and on Twitter at first. She got on Instagram later and I was able to see all her posts with no problem,” Williams explained. “Then one day I go look at her Instagram, and we hadn’t talked. We had no conversation, and she has me blocked.”

The Beef with the Kitchenista

Angela Davis, aka, The Kitchenista has a long history of online beef with Williams that she says has culminated with her receiving threats from his supporters just because she had a difference of opinion about his food.

Although the two have never met, Davis has led the charge in amplifying the voices of people who she believes have been conned by Williams. She has shared a flood of reports from people who have stories to share about their experiences with Williams.

The Kitchenista said Williams profited off her too and admitted he made $100,000 after their online beef, something Williams admits happened too.

People not only follow Williams for food recipes but for entrepreneur and business advice. So he made a 20-minute video on how to profit off of a public beef that he was having with the Kitchenista, sharing tidbits about ad revenue and brand revenue. He talked about how the Kitchenista is looking up his old videos and how to profit off of it.

“And then I used her name as a discount code for people to buy my cookbooks sort of a retaliation for her coming for me.” Williams admits that he made upwards of $110,000 from it.

The Kitchenista says that is the exact type of bullying behavior that Williams is accustomed to and comfortable and cavalier about. She says her brand is trademarked and he had no right to profit off her intellectual property.

Dining With Darius

Williams said he gave, “$64,000 in refunds happened in 2021. When people say ‘you don’t give refunds,’ I don’t know where the rumors are coming from because all my people who I’m live with every day on Instagram say yeah he took care of me and I’m straight.’ ”

There are a number of claims from business partners like Lavelle Baker, Williams’ ex and former friend who says he lost money going into a food truck partnership with him.

Baker has now started a hotline for Darius Williams “survivors.”

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Still, Williams stands by his beliefs that he has never wronged anyone.

“All I want to do is fry chicken and make macaroni and cheese, that’s it.”

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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