Derrick Prater is "Dee Conchman." Every day he sets up in various parts of Miami hawking his specialty: conch.
Conch fritters, tropical conch in a pineapple shell and conch salad two-ways, citrus or tomato based. Prater is part of a small network of conch food entrepreneurs in Miami-Dade who sell their goods from food trucks, trailers and on street corners.
“That’s what I do,” said Prater “The conch man. I got fried conch, conch balls, conch salad, tropical conch. I do it all.”
The local conch culinary tradition is a nod to Miami’s Bahamian roots. In the 1800s Bahamians were among the first black settlers in the area that would come to be known as Miami. Bahamian dishes, like souse and conch cooked a myriad of ways, continue to live on in kitchens in Miami’s black communities.
Prater, 47, started his conch-making entrepreneurial journey about six years ago after a friend gave him the recipe for conch salad. He started making it for himself and at family gatherings. Then, people started asking to pay him for large quantities of his conch batter or conch salad by the bucket for parties.
His enterprise grew.
After long shifts working at a warehouse, every weekend he'd set up his pop-up food business on the corner of Northwest 79th Street and Eighth Avenue in Miami from about 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
The busy strip drew an eclectic crowd of customers including late-night clubgoers, police officers and sex workers who walk the strip at night.
“That’s 79th street, you see some of everybody,” he said.
He took his conch-making business full time after recovering from a stroke two years ago.
These days Prater also sell his conch goods at local farmer’s markets, community events and by special order.
“It’s definitely hard,” he said.”But anything easy--I don’t want it. I put 300 percent into my business."
Prater said the key to keeping his customers coming back has always been fresh ingredients prepped daily-- and he added, stellar customer service.
On a recent afternoon, Prater prepared conch salad on demand outside of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami
A small conch salad is $5, a large $10.
Thelma Reddick, 71, heard about the conchman from a passerby as she walked through the plaza. She checked her pocketbook, she only had three dollars.
Prater told her, “You’re good. You’re definitely good.” he said handing her a conch salad. “I don’t turn people away.”
If You Go:
Dee Conchman, various locations
Follow on Instagram: @deeconchman to find out where he'll be next
Find More Miami-Dade Conch Masters:
Offerings: Conch salad, dressed conch, ceviche
Location: Northwest 95 Street and 22nd Avenue (look for large pineapple on wheels, yes, pineapple)
Fruity Dressed Conch
Offerings: Fried Conch, fried conch balls, fruit infused conch salad
Location: Famous Car Wash 8255 NW 22nd Ave (look for the blue food truck)
Offerings: Fully loaded fried conchballs (conch, fried shrimp, crab), fried conch balls, dressed conch, conch salad
Location: 5749 NW 22 Ave (look for the blue food trailer)