Chef Tre Wilcox on Masks, March Madness and the Perks of Being a Private Chef
After the show, you did a few private gigs. How did you like that?
At the time, it was a big opportunity for me. I had been at Abacus for seven years and had reached the top and this was a great new opportunity.
Did you like it?
[Leans in closely and whispers] Fuck ya! [Rolls head back and laughs.] It was awesome. It was a two-year break.
Being a private chef is a break? I've read it can be pretty demanding.
Yes, it was a break. My limit for dinner parties was 16 people. It's nothing like running a restaurant. And I was at all these amazing houses with professional kitchens.
Did you get to travel a lot too?
Oh ya. That's all I did. This one family took me to Brazil for two weeks. It was a total of six people, and they wanted to try the food of Brazil, but with my take on it. I cooked three dinners for them. That's it. The rest of my time there I just did whatever I wanted.
So, why did you come back to the restaurant business?
Because there was a recession! [He laughs again.] It was ridiculous, everybody clinched their pockets.
I also cooked for DeMarcus Ware and Bradie James too.
Bradie James is quite the foodie, right? He's always tweeting about restaurants and chefs.
Ya, he comes in here a lot.
How was cooking for them?
They're silly. DeMarcus and Bradie are close friends, and at that time I was in a bulking phase, so I walked through the door and they were like "DAMN! We got a linebacker here!" Then I started picking on them about how much they bench press and they asked me if I wanted to see the gym. [Laughing]
I told them I was just there to cook.
You didn't assert your authority in the weight room?
The wives were like, "Calm down, guys." They're extremely competitive guys. Especially Bradie. Well, he's a linebacker!
What did you learn from your career as a private chef?
One thing you always need to initiate when you walk into someone's home is that "everything is going to be OK." If you show up organized and keep your things tight then people quickly become at ease. The hosts may still be getting ready and preparing for their guests; they don't want to worry about someone destroying the place or making a big mess.
Once I was at a dinner party, and the chef started drinking vodka as soon as they showed up and got totally wasted. Dinner was awful. You ever do that?
No. No drinking on the job.
What is your favorite guilty-pleasure food?
My go-to is Fritos and French onion dip. Right now I won't do that, but during the holidays I tend to live a little more. I like Bubba's Chicken, too. That's probably my worst thing is fried chicken. I reward myself with fried chicken about once a month and that's because I eat so much of it when I do.
How many pieces?
About 12. Wings, legs, thighs. I kill it.
One more question. Any books you recommend for aspiring chefs?
Right now, the main thing I read is Art Culinaire, which comes out quarterly. My list of favorites is probably the same as everyone else's. French Laundry, Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen and all the Charlie Trotter books are great to have.