Chef Tre Wilcox
A self-made chef who has climbed his way to the top, working as a private chef for famous stars including Russell Simmons and appearing on Top Chef.
Chef Tre Wilcox began his culinary career at the age of 17 in fast food. He worked his way up through famous restaurants such as Toscana and Abacus (going from grill cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine). Chef Tre has won numerous local and national awards and was nominated as the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef for two consecutive years. He appeared on Top Chef: Season 3 and Iron Chef America. He has also freelanced as a private chef (cooking for Russell Simmons and Jerry Stackhouse), and in May of 2011, opened a restaurant in Dallas, Texas called Marquee Grill in which he applies his famous disciplined approach to cooking.
Who inspired your generation of chefs, and what effect did they have on you personally?
I have a lot of respect of some chefs that I've worked with who have inspired to be more detail oriented. One is Curtis Duffy, chef and owner of Grace Restaurant in Chicago. He's always driven me to entertain guests with textures and colors.
Based on your experiences, why do you feel there is an underrepresentation of African Americans in the food industry?
I have no answer for why. There's countless opportunities in this industry and any genre of person is able to go into it. [If a person] comes into a household where food is a synergy, it's easy for chefs to be cocooned right there at home. Maybe in the African American community, we have forgotten about the sit-down dinner and taken the more comfortable route of forgetting what you're going to feed your children and your family.
What do you think it will take to both raise the profile and increase African Americans’ representation in the field?
I really can't say. That's one of the things you've got to look at it as just getting in [if you're passionate about it, and] if chefs aren't passionate about it, get out. If you're passionate about cooking and you engage, most of the time chefs will grow just from being driven. The more you know, the more you work. The career kind of takes itself-- once you start going to different restaurants to learn as much as you can, the sky is the limit.
Chef Tre Wilcox is one of 15 culinary insiders that we interviewed as part of a special feature on Black chefs.