Chef Tre Wilcox on Masks, March Madness and the Perks of Being a Private Chef
When did you first get interested in cooking?
I didn't do any cooking growing up. My mom cooked and I ate, but I never really helped her. When I was 15 I needed money, so I got a job at Boston Chicken. Dang, there was a lot of chicken.
Did you get sick of chicken?
No, I just go better at it. I moved up in the company, then started working at other places for more money, then eventually made it over to Eatzie's on Oak Lawn and that's when I got some real cooking experience.
I read that at some point you attended the Culinary Institute of America?
[Shaking head] No, that just got taken out of context somewhere. Someone used it in an article and misinterpreted it from my bio. What it was, one year during Restaurant Week I won a trip for the best food and wine pairing to a weeklong continuing education cooking course in California.
Easy mistake. One week, two years ...
I quit after three days though.
Why did you quit the free culinary classes?
Because I was in the middle of Napa Valley [laughs] and they were making me go to school from like 1 to 8 p.m. I was making Napa cabbage-wrapped salmon and I told the instructors, "I'm outta here!" and they were all like 'That's cool.' They knew I'd learn more by going out to places than in the classroom. They commended me on my decision.
Where did you go?
French Laundry, Terra, Redd. I was eatin' it up.
What do you like about being a chef?
I like all of it. I like providing a means to entertain people. What I do in the kitchen is like a coach. I like leading a team. I've had the same little brothers with me in my kitchen since the Abacus days. It's like a competition sport back there.
How do you keep all your little brothers in line?
They knew what they were getting into when they signed up to work for me. They know I don't get into opportunities because they're easy. They know I want to be challenged. They enjoy it though. They're all game on.
Would you recommend being on Top Chef to, say, one of your little brothers?
I would recommend it to someone that likes competing and being out in front of the camera. But if they're not that kind of person, then they wouldn't enjoy it.