This is part of a chef interview series. View all interviews here.
I’m really excited for all of you Charlotteans to get to know the chef of one of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte. If you know me, you know picking favorites is pretty difficult, so that says a lot.
Chef Trey Wilson of Customshop is, quite frankly, a genius. I can say without a doubt that I’ve never had a bad experience at Customshop. I’m a frequent diner at the bar there. I love how connected Chef Trey is with food. He grows it and cultivates it into something so much more. He is also a bourbon lover, which in my book, scores you major points. I’d eat ramen with him any day.
What are your thoughts on social media playing such a huge role in the restaurant scene? Has it made a good or a bad impact?
We love having a social media presence for Customshop. We change our menu each week so it’s a great tool to let our guests know what’s new and what’s fresh. It’s certainly made a great impact. People come in asking for what they’ve seen across our social channels so we know it’s working. It’s helps us (as a small business) maximize our reach and talk to our guests at a fair price.
What is the first thing you do after a long day at the restaurant?
Chill out and enjoy a bourbon. I really like Bulleit and Bulleit Rye, and am just getting into Angel’s Envy.
For you, what is the most challenging part of running a restaurant?
Managing people is really tough. I’d prefer to just work in the kitchen and cook, but that’s not how it works. When you own a restaurant, you’re doing it all.
Where do you see the Charlotte food scene going in the near future?
I foresee a lot of change. People are getting interested in new things and that translates through to what they want to see with food. The demand for creativity is at its highest. Chefs in Charlotte are becoming more experimental and the people are becoming more interested in supporting local. I see more independent places opening and pushing out chains.
Besides Charlotte [of course!], what’s your favorite city to eat your way through?
Atlanta, Charleston, NYC
What is your prediction for the next ‘big ingredient’ in the food world?
The next “big ingredient” is something that’s handmade; it’s something chefs are making themselves. People are getting into making their own oils, fermenting things; the next big ingredient will be something custom and handmade.
Do you have any advice you would give an aspiring chef that you wish someone would have given you when you first began your culinary journey?
Don’t worry about titles. Work hard and work your way up. As chefs, we tend to be control freaks.
What is your biggest pet peeve in restaurants?
At Customshop we are all about consistency and simplicity and that’s what we look for when we go out to eat.
Is there an ingredient or dish that you feel in completely overrated?
Everything has its place and we appreciate different ingredients on different levels and for their individual purposes.
How do you juggle the work versus life balance?
You don’t. Owning a restaurant is a giant undertaking and you have to love it and be fully committed. Your work life and personal life all meshes together when you do what you love.
What do you think about this ‘celebrity chef’ phenomenon?
We’re all about simplicity and supporting local, so we don’t care much for the hype.
What is your favorite dish currently on Customshop’s menu?
I love our barbecue octopus. We switch up its dressings every once in a while but I have a hard time even considering taking it off the menu. It’s too good.
What is your favorite restaurant in Charlotte?
I really like Futo Buta in South End. I like the small plates, the atmosphere; the service is great. It’s also small and independently owned, which I can appreciate.
Connect with Chef Trey and Customshop: