ATLANTE – Good food is meant 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.
“It’s been a living nightmare,” complained Atlanta resident Melenese Ford.
Darius Williams, 39, once owned two restaurants in Atlanta which he closed in January 2020. He has since built an impressive online presence under the pseudonym Darius Cooks.
Atlanta-based online chief Darius Williams declined to explain why he doxes his critics.
A self-taught chef, Williams operates a website called DariusCooksTV where he sells cookbooks and cooking utensils mixed with his cooking videos.
He also posts frequently on social media – his Facebook page alone claims 1.5 million followers.
You can even catch Williams in person for her seven-course meals called Dining with Darius — now advertised at $289 per person — held in various cities across the country.
Darius Williams relies on short-term rental houses like this one in Collier Hills to host his Dining with Darius events. He raised the price to $289 per person next year.
But not everyone likes the overall taste of what Williams served up.
His company got an F rating with the local Better Business Bureau following complaints that it has never delivered products or canceled dining events without refunding.
Unable to reach Williams directly, upset customers expressed their frustration in the comments section of social media posts or live videos of Williams.
This is where another term was added to the menu. Doxing.
“I’ll be honest,” Detroit’s Don Holland said. “I didn’t even know what the term doxing meant.”
The official term is sharing someone’s private or identifying information online in a malicious way.
When Danielle Holland anonymously reposted comments from disgruntled customers, she later discovered that Darius Williams had responded by posting photos of his two young children.
Holland’s wife, Danielle, said she noticed consumer complaints about Williams and began reposting them anonymously.
Then one day she looked at Darius’ Twitter page.
“I’m scrolling and the next thing I see is a picture of me. I see a picture of my kids. And my husband,” she said. “And it was literally like an out of body experience.”
The Hollands shut down all of their social media accounts and filed a police report, sending authorities excerpts from videos of Williams where he bragged about having reported Danielle and her children.
“We also have his children there,” he told his followers. “Her children’s information. I put it on my Instagram.”
Williams still has the photos of their children on her Twitter page.
When the FOX 5 I-Team asked Williams about his doxing practices, he declined to comment and closed the door to a short-term rental house he was using in Atlanta for a Dining with Darius event.
Doxing has happened to more than the Hollands.
In other live streams, Williams bragged about being able to get personal information about his critics.
“I can tell you who went from what state to what state,” he told his followers.
When another upset customer disputed an accusation — her friend said she arrived late for a Dining with Darius event because he was slow to share the location — Williams released her contact details to her followers, then laughed at her. He also posted the phone number of his brother who had contacted him privately to intervene.
“He doesn’t like criticism,” Danielle Holland said. “He doesn’t like being questioned.”
The Hollands quickly found others who also claim to be victims of doxing. Like Melenese Ford from Atlanta. She says that after raising questions about Darius’ tactics, her followers bombarded her as well.
“I was contacted,” she said. “He called all kinds of names. It was absolutely awful. He does this for clicks, likes and engagement.”
The food battle has even reached other TV chefs. Sunny Anderson and Andrea Davis – known as the Kitchenista – have issued public condemnations of Williams and his doxing.
Anderson got her start at Williams years ago as a guest on her Food Network show.
“I feel so bad,” Anderson told the FOX 5 I-Team. “Really. I want people to know I had 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 its restaurants Greens and Gravy in Atlanta and Soul Crab in College Park.
“This thing about doxing and cyberbullying…it’s real,” Ford said. “And it’s hurtful and it hurts people.”
Don and Danielle Holland sell shirts that explain the danger of doxing. They say they match all profits and donate them to charity.
To fight back, the Hollands created jerseys with the hashtag #AForeverProblem on the front and the definition of doxing on the back.
They sell them online with proceeds pledged to cyberbullying charities like Cyber Smiles and Movement 4 Black Lives. Owner of a trucking company, Holland says he matches every donation.
Melenese Ford left one of the jerseys on Williams’ car when he was in Atlanta last month.
He took a restraining order. She filed a complaint with the police. And when he went live to talk about it, she says the attacks from his followers escalated again.
A doxing victim left a t-shirt on Darius Williams’ car when he was in Atlanta last month. She filed a police report after he stopped her car from driving. He then filed a restraining order. They are due in court later this month.
“It’s like a very intense kind of cult that harasses a complete stranger based on what they’ve said,” she explained. “It’s pretty scary.”
Enjoy your meal everybody.
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