DeAndre Smith, a junior Communication Studies major and Nutrition minor at the University of Northern Colorado, has another pastime outside of school as an award-winning chef where he is known as, Chef Cool Dre.

He has won two awards, participated in several cooking competitions and even created his own catering business, which is known as Cool Dre’s LLC located in Denver and Greeley. His style of cooking is southern, Cajun and Vietnamese cuisines.

“I’ve cooked on ABC’s ‘The Chew,’ and that was my actual first competition,’” Smith said. “I was chosen as one out of 20 in the nation, had the opportunity to go to Manhattan and cook live on T.V. where they shot six, 15-minute-long episodes and aired them. My mentor, at the time, was Chef Fabio, a celebrity chef.”

DeAndre Smith preparing a Garlic Shrimp Po Boy plate

DeAndre Smith, aka “Chef Cool Dre,” prepares a Garlic Shrimp Po’ Boy plate at the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center at UNC. Photo courtesy of Smith.

Smith also won his first award earlier this year in March at the HMSHost “Channel Your Inner Chef” competition at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport Terminal 2. The finalists had 30 minutes to cook a meal, with Smith winning first place. His award-winning dish included pan-seared chicken breast with a caramel glaze, Fresno peppers, fresh lemongrass, kale and yams.

One of the HMSHost-operated restaurants in the Chicago O’Hare airport featured his winning dish on their menu by turning his dish into a sandwich for travelers to easily enjoy.

With Chef Cool Dre’s Catering Business, Smith sells plates and travels when hired to cater at events. He usually cooks by himself with an average event lasting between three to eight hours. His favorite event that he cooked for was for a Shinedown and Papa Roach concert.

Smith creates his own recipes by thinking of any food items that could work together. His favorite recipes to make include anything Cajun or involving seafood, and his favorite spice blends include salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder, or anything from Spiceology.

His advice for anyone interested in following his footsteps: It’s OK not to know everything, and good things come to those who wait.

He never imagined doors opening the way they did for him and said he owes a lot to his family, especially his grandmother, who encouraged him to chase his dreams.


Smith can be reached by email at or by phone at 720-422-3560. Follow him as he continues his cooking journey on Instagram (@chefcooldre).

— Produced by Mackenzie Eldred.

Full UNC article HERE