Name: Henry Dudley
Profession: Chef & Principle Consultant for the Dudley Hospitality Group
One Word That Describes You: Maverick
How does it feel to be a BEMM 100 ambassador?
I am super-excited and thankful first and foremost to God for his grace and favor in being named a BEMM 100 Ambassador. Throughout my life and career I’ve always just showed up and did what needed to be done. I never looked for accolades. This opportunity is a culmination of all the things I have done in life and I am very, very happy.
What are you doing as an ambassador to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As an ambassador I am and will continue to always put my best foot forward and continue to be an example for all black male achievers and young black males looking for a role model.
My true labor of love is The Latchkey Project. The Latchkey Project is a program I am designing to mentor at-risk young men who are products of a single parent home. Programming will be on how to cook and prepare healthy meals as well as life skills. This is very close to my heart, because I was this young man who came home to an empty home while my mom worked three jobs. I had to cook and feed myself as well as hold myself accountable for my daily progression. Today’s young black male is so out of touch with food and nutrition that they often grow into unhealthy black men—both physically and spiritually.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
My upbringing. I grew up in the South Bronx during the ′80s crack era as an only child of a struggling single mother and an absentee father who longed for the street life. My mother worked three jobs to support us while my dad ran the streets, beat my mother, and sold and abused drugs until he eventually died of HIV/AIDS in 1990. From my mother, and being in this situation, I developed my work ethic and longing for success and independence. After college, I dealt with homelessness and a lack of foundational family support. Even in dealing with these situations, I was able to be resilient and strong through the rough times, and began to shape my career at an early age.
In the ′90s there were not many successful black chefs in the industry and I dealt with severe institutionalized racism. Most blacks in the kitchen were dishwashers and low-level line cooks. Very rarely would we be called upon to take an executive chef position. I vowed to myself that I would not let this deter me. As a result of my determination and working hard to prove myself, I was able to become established as a true chef in the industry a decade before its social media explosion.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
The most important quality I look for in a relationship of any kind is character. Character is the foundation of who you are. It’s shaped from life’s experiences and how you’ve dealt with issues and adversity. This is what makes you the person you are today—even with flaws you may have. You cannot just walk through life aimlessly and be afraid to drop the ball. You have to fail to succeed because this builds character. Your true character will be a deciding factor in your decision-making and how you deal with other people in life.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I am working on expanding DHG (Dudley Hospitality Group) brand from the NYC Tri-State area to the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV), and Mid-Atlantic region. DHG’s ultimate goal is to be the area’s top hospitality entity, featuring a top-tier catering and personal chef services as well as results-driven restaurant consultation services. One of my major focus points is teaching essential customer service skills to the current market labor pool, and the development of a core culinary skill set.
As HBCU alum, I understand the importance of an HBCU education. For the past five years, I have put together a huge tailgate party at Virginia State University during homecoming weekend. The VSU Team tailgate event allows me to give back to the university. The event is sponsored by alumni donations, which pay for the food, equipment, and entertainment. After the event, a donation is given back to the school to assist in helping other HBCU students receive a quality education.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“When you feel like you’ve learned it all, learn some more.” Food trends and eating habits change, on average, every 10 years. Being a successful chef requires fluidity—the ability to change and be flexible.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
The best advice I can give other men who want to make a difference is very simple: be consistent. This is the one characteristic that people respect the most. Finish what you have started, do what you said you were going to do, and be consistent.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I am very thorough and regimented in my business approach. I feel that the best way to prep for a meeting or event is planning and preconditioning. In order to have success you have to be totally prepared and look under every rock for opportunity. A preconditioning approach allows you to research and set the tone for the meeting or event before it even happens.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.
The hospitality industry is brutal. It usually consists of 14-hour days and six-day weeks. The demands and commitments to service often have kept me from traveling internationally as much as I would’ve liked to, so I tend to take short domestic trips to unwind. My most recent was a four-day trip to New Orleans where my lady and I spent time restaurant hopping, indulging in local libations, and exploring the history and culture of my family’s Gulf Coast roots.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
The one place I must visit before I leave this earth is South Africa. I’ve always followed this country’s history and culture, including its decades of oppression. With that being said it’s a place I wish to visit one day.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I would just like to thank Black Enterprise for this amazing opportunity to represent myself and Black Enterprise as a BE Modern Man. This is truly an honor that I will hold as sacred.
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