From Santana Moss to Snoop Dogg, Tobias Dorzon shares journey from gridiron to waffle iron
Victory Chefs allows the former NFL player turned chef an opportunity to cultivate his passion
“More success” is what celebrity chef Tobias Dorzon said he found when he left the game of football to spend more time with his family.
For the 34-year-old father of two, there isn’t a single thing he misses about being a professional athlete.
“When I say that, people often don’t understand,” Dorzon told The Undefeated. “Some people think, from the outside looking in, it makes you bigger than what you actually are. That spotlight is something that when it touches some people, they never want to lose it. But I felt like I could have the same spotlight doing something I love to do: cooking.”
He’d discovered his inherent passion for cooking after a short career in the NFL and solid time in the Canadian Football League.
“I went to culinary school in one of my offseasons in late 2012 and figured out that I can have the same success at home,” Dorzon said.
So he set out on a journey that saw him evolve from an athlete and family man with an innate cooking ability into an executive chef with a star-studded list of celebrity clients, a food truck and even some time as a restaurant co-owner.
Dorzon’s first client, then-Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, took a chance on him after seeing his food posts on Instagram.
“I needed an official name for my company, so I chose Victory Chefs and came on board with Santana,” Dorzon said. “The rest was history.”
After Dorzon launched Victory Chefs in 2014, his business quickly grew. Raised just outside of Washington, D.C., in Riverdale Park, Maryland, Dorzon returned to the area after leaving football, and access to athletes was easy enough. After one of his food deliveries to Moss, other players in the Redskins’ locker room wanted in. As he took on more NFL clients and word of mouth spread, Dorzon began cooking for several other NFL and NBA players, including DeSean Jackson, Trent Williams, Jameer Nelson, Jeff Green and Jarrett Jack, and even a few entertainers, like Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg and The Game.
Dorzon then opened a successful food truck, and as his popularity continued to soar, so did other interests in his talent. In 2018, he was asked to be part owner and lead chef of a new D.C. restaurant, Union Oyster Bar & Lounge, but he parted ways with the establishment soon after opening.
“It was an amazing experience for me,” Dorzon said. “Things were going really good with my food truck, and the opportunity presented itself … I was able to get in on the beginning steps. It was the first whole menu I was able to put together myself. I could pack out a restaurant, and that was exciting. People that had been waiting to try my food for a while were able to come in and see that it was worth the hype, and that I actually deliver on my product.”
Dorzon says his exit was not bad.
“We [leadership] just wanted different things, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I just felt it was probably best that we go our separate ways. The restaurant is doing its thing and I’m doing my thing on my end.”
Dorzon, whose given first name is Bloi-Dei, started playing high school football before graduating in 2003. After he decided to forgo college, a life-changing event pushed him to set new life goals.
“I had my oldest daughter when I was 21, and that inspired me to go back to school,” Dorzon said.
He started out at a junior college in Pennsylvania before attending Jackson State University in Mississippi. His NFL journey began with a brief stint with the Tennessee Titans before he headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one year and then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Canada for two years.
“In the CFL, I started enjoying football again because I played a lot more, but while in Canada I became really homesick, missing my daughter Riley,” he said.
Dorzon’s second career follows in the footsteps of his father, who owned a West African-styled restaurant, Kendejah, that was located in the heart of Washington D.C.
“My dad’s been a chef for 50 years,” he said. “He had his own restaurant and catering company. So I was always around food. It was always a part of me. I looked up to my father and saw his passion for cooking, and it helped me realize that cooking was something that I really enjoyed also. It took my mind off a lot.”
For Dorzon, cooking remained in his heart and came naturally. He was born the youngest of nine siblings to Liberian parents. His oldest sister, Kendejah, whom the restaurant was named for when she was small, was tragically murdered in 2004. With his family dynamic in mind, he figured cooking would eventually become a mainstay in his life.
“I felt like cooking was my gift,” Dorzon said. “When I had my apartment in Jackson, Mississippi, while in college, I would cook all the time. It was always something I liked to do. Even when I was in the pros, I would cook at my house and have people over.”
When he’s not preparing executive meals, he’s spending time with his two daughters, Riley and Torienne. “Those two amazing young ladies are my everything.”
Who is your childhood hero?
My pops. He played a huge role in my interest in culinary. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his influence.
What are you looking forward to achieving in 2019?
Definitely seeing myself on the TV screen. I’ve got some big things coming up, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I’m also looking forward to sharing my talent and story with others through the cooking camp for kids from my hometown, and kicking off my trainings for up- and-coming chefs.
What would you tell your 15-year-old self?
Be true to yourself and only worry about things you can control. God’s got the rest.
What’s your favorite social media spot?
IG is definitely the favorite. It’s how I got my first pro NFL client, Santana Moss. He saw pictures of my food and became a client that referred me to others. Instagram is visual, just like food. So I use it to get people excited about what they see and to show that I’m a cool dude who cooks my ass off. It’s part food but also part lifestyle. Just posting pictures of your food isn’t enough. People want to see who you are!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Ironically, my manager often tells me to ‘get off Instagram.’ It’s a useful platform and has been very important to my career, but it can have you losing focus. We are now using it more as a real business growth tool and to create partnerships around it that match my story and life.
Who’s the most famous person following you on IG/Snapchat/Twitter?
I’m not sure. We’re all just regular people using social media as a tool to connect. I’m just flattered that people want to see what I cook up.
Given all of the celebrities you’ve now cooked for, have you ever been star-struck by any of them?
Not really star-struck but more thankful for the opportunity to do what I do for people I admire. Sometimes they’re my family, sometimes they’re world champions. Everyone is special, and I’m happy to be able to showcase what I do and get recognized for doing it well.
What do you do before preparing a meal for a big occasion?
Pray, put my headphones on to most likely Meek Mill, and go in!