Chef and TikTok sensation, Uncle Dibbz, refers to himself as “Your auntie’s favorite uncle.”
At 35-years-old, Uncle Dibbz is arguably a bit young to receive the title of ‘Unc’ (after all, the label is one that reigns supreme amongst the pantheon of designations for Black men). Still Dibbz, who chats via videoconferencing, dons a backwards Kangol hat which matches his cool demeanor. Needless to say, this entrepreneur certainly gives off “Uncle” vibes.
Uncle Dibbz (née Alex Bowden), got his chef name from his work DJing—a career which once took him around the world. The creative would perform his DJ sets, and at a later point of the trip, he would insist on trying foods native to the specific locale.
“If we’re in Australia, I want to know what they’re eating there.” He continued, “I would go back in the restaurants’ kitchen sometimes and tell them, ‘Hey, I cook too! Do you mind if I come back here and look?'” With this simple request, the chef would learn several different cooking techniques. Upon returning stateside, he would try the new recipes at home. This cultural exchange, of sorts, was intriguing to Bowden, as he always had a love for the culinary arts.
Life came to a halt during the pandemic, and so did Bowden’s travels as a DJ. The creative entrepreneur decided to lean-in to his passion for cooking. He later moved to Texas, and took a few cooking classes to broaden the scope of his technique. Later, Bowden launched Uncle Dibbz Seasoning. The chef, who came from an entrepreneurial family, is adamant about Black people getting back into entrepreneurship.
The seasoning line has gone viral on TikTok (several times), capturing the attention of customers from around the world, including Emmitt Smith, a former running back hall of famer for the Dallas Cowboys.
“I didn’t know I was going to make a seasoning line at the time,” says Bowden. The chef joins ESSENCE to discuss his seasonings, rubs and how this chef builds his culinary kingdom.
How did you decide to start your sessoning line?
So for me, I could only make so many plates. If somebody’s all the way across the world, I can’t necessarily ship them a plate of some of my barbecue or whatever I’m creating.
In 2019, I had the idea that I wanted some type of product, something that you can hold in your hand. I knew it was unconventional. I knew it was going to take a lot of research to figure out how to do it. And I finally figured out seasoning, because that was really the magic ingredient that took this steak from being just, okay, and taking it to another level, you know what I mean?
I would take an old seasoning bottle and tear off the label and put some tape on it and then write whatever blend it was that I was using. So after a while of me tearing off labels of other seasonings, I was like, “You know what, it’s time for me to be in these people’s kitchens.”
I know 2020 was rough for a lot of people—from health to finances—but for me, it was the reset that I needed. Isolation was what I needed in order to put my mind and my grind to it.
When did you find that your seasoning line started to takeoff?
In Atlanta, we’re known for our wings; specifically lemon pepper wings. So my seasoning, “Atlanta Lemon Pepper,” I made it hot just so I can make it something different. Years ago I made a video on TikTok just for fun, because you couldn’t get good lemon pepper wings in Miami. Next thing you know, I’m hearing my e-commerce site “ching.” Another five minutes goes by “cha-ching,” two minutes goes by “cha-ching.”
When I first launched, I knew probably about 95% of the people who were buying my seasonings. Then I started seeing places that I haven’t been, or names I didn’t recognize. I go back to my TikTok and it already has half a million views from this lemon pepper wings video within two hours. It is validating when people from all over the world are buying, as well.
How many spices and rubs do you offer?
Seasonings are made of different spices. So rubs are really made more specifically for barbecue because you’re not just seasoning it, you’re kind of working it into the protein. But I have seasonal products and I have products that I always launch. I started three years ago, and have over 20 different seasonings.
I’ve also gotten more into the wellness space recently, and I have a Vital Spice daily Blend. I make my smoothies every morning and I add my own ingredients to it, like cilantro, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, mint, basil. It’s just for smoothies and tea or for coffee or for water, whatever you want to put it in.
How does one go about systematizing this?
I have a great team of five. I’m actually proud that my whole team is all Black women. I’m very inclusive when it comes to my hiring process. The process as far as getting seasonings from my head to these bottles into your kitchen is definitely spearheaded by me, but it definitely takes a team effort in order to make all this possible from the labeling of the bottles to the mixing of the ingredients, to the deliveries, to the marketing, everything. I am also a co-packer for the seasoning,
How have you used social media to scale and build your business?
With TikTok especially, I don’t just throw out ads. I really try to bring value to whatever I do when I’m posting. So I really love barbecue. I know the average Gen Z or millennials, not about the “bus” open the smoker for 12 hours, and cook a brisket. So I tried to find the middle ground. How can I connect with a younger audience so they’re not just doing takeout and on these delivery apps all the time, spending $40 for a cheeseburger. How can you make that cheeseburger at home?
When I first launched, a lot of the customers were people I knew from my music industry days. Everyone’s in line for the grand opening, but there’s always a dip after. That lemon pepper wings video, I put that video out and that was kind of the genesis of me going from, okay, “this is just a hobby,” to “I can really take this seriously.”
So once a video goes viral, especially on TikTok, it’s full blast. It’s like having a Super Bowl commercial. Almost everyone is going to your site, everyone’s adding to the cart, they’re actually signing up for your email list.
How do you differentiate yourself from other chefs on social media?
Call myself a “weekend chef.” I don’t try to come off like I’m a know-it-all. I’ve made mistakes in my video. I’m receptive and talk and communicate with my followers and answer questions. The dms I get are, “You make cooking look so easy!” Everyone’s a perfectionist, especially for social media.
I get a lot of messages from guys too. I guess there’s been a stereotype for men cooking and things like that it’s not masculine. Let me tell you right now, from what women have told me, cooking is one of the sexiest things you can do for a woman. I’m trying to get brothers to realize, listen, you don’t have to just be out on the barbecue pit for Fourth of July weekend or Juneteenth. You can learn how to make something for your lady or whoever you’re with, and it’s fine and it’s easy and it’s approachable and it’s nothing to be scared or intimidated by.
What is your main objective with Uncle Dibbz Seasoning?
I’m competing against the McCormicks, the Smiths and the Goyas—all of these big brands. If I see the success of all my sacrifice and hard work, that’s great, but this is going to be something that’s going to be more for my family, for generations to come.
Interview is edited for brevity and clarity.