ATLANTA – Good food is supposed to nourish the soul as well as the body.
But the FOX 5 I-Team says an Atlanta social media influencer who touts his cooking skills online has left behind a mess of consumer complaints and hurt feelings. And worse.
“This has been a living nightmare,” complained Atlanta resident Melenese Ford.
Darius Williams, 39, once owned two Atlanta restaurants that he closed in January 2020. He’s since built an impressive online presence under the pseudonym Darius Cooks.
Atlanta-based online chef Darius Williams refused to explain why he doxes his critics.
A self-taught chef, Williams operates a website called DariusCooksTV where he sells cookbooks and cookware mixed in with his cooking videos.
He also frequently posts on social media — his Facebook page alone claims 1.5 million followers.
You can even see Williams in person for his seven-course meals called Dining with Darius — advertised now at $289 a person — held in various cities across the country.
Darius Williams relies on short-term rental houses like this one in Collier Hills to stage his Dining with Darius events. He upped the price to $289 per person next year.
But not everyone likes the overall taste of what Williams has been serving.
His company scored an F Rating with the local Better Business Bureau over complaints he never delivered products or canceled dining events without providing refunds.
Unable to reach Williams directly, upset customers voiced their frustration in the comments section of Williams’ social media posts or live videos.
That’s where another term was added to the menu. Doxing.
“I’ll be honest,” said Don Holland of Detroit. “I didn’t even know what the term doxing meant.”
The official term is sharing private or identifying information online about someone in a malicious way.
When Danielle Holland anonymously reposted comments from upset customers, she later discovered Darius Williams responded by posting pictures of her two young children.
Holland’s wife Danielle said she noticed consumer complaints about Williams and started reposting them anonymously.
Then one day she looked at Darius’ Twitter page.
“I’m scrolling and the next thing I see a picture of me. I see a picture of my children. And my husband,” she recounted. “And it was kind of literally like an out-of-body experience.”
The Hollands shut down all their social media accounts and filed a police report, sending authorities clips of Williams’ videos where he bragged about exposing Danielle and her children.
“We got her kids on there as well,” he tells his supporters. “Her kids’ information. I put it on my Instagram.”
Williams still has their children’s pictures on his Twitter page.
When the FOX 5 I-Team asked Williams about his doxing practices, he declined comment and closed the door of a short-term rental home he was using in Atlanta for a Dining with Darius event.
Doxing has happened to more than just the Hollands.
In other live feeds Williams boasted how he can get personal information about his critics.
“I can tell you who moved to from what state to what state,” he told his followers.
When another upset customer disputed a charge — her friend said she arrived late for a Dining with Darius event because he was slow to share the location — Williams posted her contact information to his followers, then made fun of her. He also posted the phone number of her brother who had privately reached out to intervene.
“He doesn’t like criticism,” said Danielle Holland. “He doesn’t like to be questioned.”
The Hollands quickly found others who say they’re also victims of doxing. Like Melenese Ford of Atlanta. She says after she raised questions about Darius’ tactics, his followers bombarded her, too.
“I was reached out to,” she said. “Called all sorts of names. It was absolutely horrible. He does this for clicks, likes and engagement.”
The food fight has even reached other TV chefs. Sunny Anderson and Angela Davis — known as the Kitchenista — have issued public condemnations of Williams and his doxing.
Anderson gave Williams his start years ago as a guest on her Food Network show.
“I feel so bad,” Anderson told the FOX 5 I-Team. “I really do. I want people to know I have nothing to do with him.”
In 2019, the state of Georgia shut down Williams’ illegal credit repair business called Above 701. He agreed to pay $145,750 in penalties and restitution.
A few months later, Williams closed his restaurants Greens and Gravy in Atlanta and Soul Crab in College Park.
“This thing about doxing and cyberbullying… it’s real,” said Ford. “And it’s hurtful and it’s hurting people.”
Don and Danielle Holland sell shirts that explain the danger of doxing. They say they match all proceeds and donate them to charity.
To fight back, the Hollands created shirts with the hashtag #AForeverProblem on the front and the definition of doxing on the back.
They sell them online with proceeds promised to cyberbullying charities like Cyber Smiles and Movement 4 Black Lives. The owner of a trucking company, Holland says he matches every donation.
Melenese Ford left one of the shirts on Williams’ car when he was in Atlanta last month.
He took out a restraining order. She filed a police report. And when he went live to talk about it, she says the attacks from his followers cranked up all over again.
One doxing victim left a t-shirt on Darius Williams’ car when he was in Atlanta last month. She filed a police report after he blocked her car from leaving. He later filed a restraining order. They’re due in court later this month.
“It’s like some sort of really intense cult following that will harass a total stranger based on what he said,” she explained. “It’s pretty scary.”
Bon appétit everyone.
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