With a huge painting of a cracked egg on its exterior, it’s hard to miss Home Maid, a restaurant located on Key Highway in the heart of Federal Hill.

It’s intimate and homey inside, with wallpaper comprised of classic black-and-white photography and four-top tables. Though the spot is only open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the chefs there handcraft some of Baltimore’s most impressive brunch items. The “James Brown” features hearty grits topped with perfectly fried catfish and a house sauce. The “Tony Montana” is a jumbo lump crab cake sandwich with a fried egg and bacon. And the chicken and waffle dish has cornmeal waffles with a side of tasty sweet potato tots.

Westport native and owner Derrick Faulcon, 40, had a vision for this kind of place in his 20s, but he wasn’t sure then he’d end up in the food industry — it was also the time in his life when he was sentenced to federal prison. During his 11 years locked up for identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, he was plotting a way to be successful in legitimate business. Hungry for inspiration and already attracted to fashion, architecture and entrepreneurship, he had friends send him copies of Architectural Digest and Nylon magazines while doing his time. There, he saw the type of spaces that he’d one day like to own and operate, but he knew he had to diversify his personal network in order to pull it off.

“The driving force behind everything with me is lifestyle,” he said, sporting a multicolored Nike windbreaker that looks like an updated version of early ’90s athletic wear as he gives a tour of Home Maid. “I wanted to own a home in Georgetown, a home on the Upper East Side and a home in Malibu. So I had to figure out a plan to get those things.”

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When Faulcon was released in 2012, his first endeavor was a workout boot camp informed by the regimen he created while incarcerated. At first he operated out of Coppin State University’s campus, allowing clients to pay in cash instead of memberships. Then he started an intense midnight madness workout program that started to attract students and business professionals alike.

“I worked in an open field, so I had no overhead. And the popularity grew and my network started to build,” he said. “That’s how I pivoted. I legitimized myself and moved downtown so I could be around a different crowd of people. Then the people who lived downtown became my fitness clients.”

One day, one of those clients mentioned to Faulcon that they had a restaurant for lease in Fells Point just in case he knew anyone who was interested. He went to see the place for himself and figured it was too big. But as luck would have it, the client had a similar, smaller restaurant space on Chesapeake Avenue in Towson. With the money he was making from a growing network of fitness clients, Faulcon took a chance and created the first Home Maid location there. After a successful year, he relocated to the current Key Highway address.

If you’ve ever come inside these doors on a weekend, you know that Baltimoreans can’t get enough of what Home Maid is cooking. It’s a rare occurrence when the tables aren’t packed or people aren’t outside waiting in line. And you have to be an efficient eater at brunch — the house rules enforce an hour-max sit time so others can get their turn.

Business has done well enough that Faulcon was able to debut a new venture in 2020: the vegan Cloudy Donut Co. Also just open on weekends, it’s not uncommon to see lines down Harford Road at Hamilton waiting for whatever specialty flavors of the week are available (some notables include Sexual Chocolate, Salted Caramel Whiskey and Maple Butter Pecan). In 2021, Faulcon opened a Federal Hill location, which is temporarily closed, and last year he took the donut shop to Brooklyn, New York, where it became the first Black-owned business in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

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His brother Brandon is a key member of his team and serves as Home Maid’s operations manager, which gives Derrick the freedom to focus on establishing business in New York. But Brandon was initially reluctant to be a contributing member. “When he got the first location in Towson and asked me to be a part of it, I was like, ‘Nah man I ain’t tryna do it.’ I worked in the food industry before. So I supported from afar,” Brandon said. “When I came back after a year in California, he had the new location and asked me would I help on dishes. So I did. But then my ego got involved and I left.”

Derrick was persistent in having Brandon around, though. After some personnel changes at the restaurant, he approached his brother again, emphasizing the need to have a trustworthy person steer the ship. It eventually worked. Now Brandon is settled into his role and thanks his brother for helping him see the value of being a part of the journey. “One of the biggest things I’ve got from him is doing things out of logic and not emotion. Operating with an emotional compass isn’t the guide you need,” Brandon said.

Home Maid and Cloudy Donut Co. owner Derrick Faulcon in his Mount Vernon home. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Derrick Faulcon attributes the fast pace of his success to his personable approach to business and the fact that he never minimizes himself. “With what I’m bringing to the marketplace, I’m always gonna have a niche because I’m not just bringing the food; I’m bringing a level of authenticity. And I don’t think authenticity is perfection,” he said. “People are running with the ex-con thing and for me. I don’t hide from my past, but I’ve always had a certain perspective on life. I always had the hunger and ambition. And more importantly, I’ve always had a taste level.”

In New York, Faulcon’s eyes are set on aligning the business with worldwide brands and notable celebrities. He recently met with apparel companies such as Nike and Supreme to see if there’s space for collaboration. Rapper Styles P of New York group The Lox (who also owns a handful of juice spots) has been a regular at the Brooklyn location. These are all steps in the right direction for Faulcon, whose dream has always been to create an exciting lifestyle for himself through different projects. “I never had the mindset of, ‘I’m just gonna be here in Baltimore.’ I’m gonna provide the people with something great and keep going. It’s a tool,” he said.

He’d like his story to be a guiding light. “My inspiration comes from three places. It’s always a combination of the past, the future and the timeless present. So when I develop places like Home Maid, I develop from an organic space,” he said. “And being from Baltimore, I was always taught to be my own self. Be inspired by people but don’t take their swag. I’m nothing like the college professor, nor am I a lawyer. I represent a wave of people that were counted out behind those walls. Who grew up on WIC. Whose fathers got high. I know it’s some people just like me out there, who got good taste but can’t connect to creatives.”

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Correction: This article has been updated to correct when Cloudy Donut Co. opened its Harford Road and Federal Hill locations.

Lawrence Burney was The Baltimore Banner’s arts & culture reporter. He was formerly a columnist at The Washington Post, senior editor at The FADER, and staff writer at VICE music vertical Noisey.

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