tre-wilcox_web.jpgNORTH MIAMI – Seared, big-eye tuna with avocado and radish, poached lobster and black truffle risotto with Meyer lemon brown butter.

Is your mouth watering yet?

These are just a few of the dishes Celebrity Chef Tre Wilcox prepared for the 2009 Johnson & Wales University Distinguished Visiting Chef Series.

Many people may recognize Wilcox, a self-taught culinary guru, as a contestant on Season 3 of Bravo TV’s reality cooking competition, “Top Chef.’’

Truly an audience favorite, the TV show gave Wilcox the opportunity to share his craft with the world.

“I didn't win the show, but that experience taught me a lot about my cooking techniques and my niche,’’ Wilcox told the South Florida Times.

Wilcox’s overwhelming talent and unmatched cooking style gave him his small-screen debut. But the journey to his success was a long one that involved dedication and passion.

He embarked upon his first fine dining experience at Dallas’ own Toscana Restaurant, and later made his way to Abacus Restaurant. There, he began as a grill cook and quickly worked his way through the ranks to sous chef and then to executive sous chef in 2003.

The accolades and rewards he has received along with his talents were just a few reasons why Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts invited him to participate in the Distinguished Visiting Chef Series.

Loreen Chant, president of the university, said she recognizes the relevance of this series and the positive impact it has on the students.

“When Chef Tre Wilcox spoke to the students about flavor profiling, psychology of colors and the need for passion, he did it for two hours and didn’t have a note card in place. Our students truly get firsthand knowledge of what it takes to be a professional culinary artist,’’ Chant said.

The Distinguished Visiting Chef series, a JWU tradition for more than seven years, invites unique distinguished chefs to share their expertise and original cooking styles with students. The students, all of whom volunteer their time, spend at least three days with Wilcox preparing different meals and desserts.

The grand finale of this year’s series on the evening of Feb. 6 saw more than 20 of the university’s students, led by Wilcox, preparing food all day. The main event ended with a small dinner demonstration.

The north campus lobby of Johnson & Wales’ North Miami campus was decorated as an exquisite fine dining restaurant. Patrons and invitees were welcomed to champagne and hors d’oeuvres as they walked in. The students prepared all the food.

Special Guest host Marc Buoniconti of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis shared his story and support for the university and the series before dinner.

Soon after that, Wilcox explained the savoring delights that everyone was anticipating. A glass of
Moscato D'asti wine paired with lemon tarragon panna corta dessert with strawberry champagne sauce, blueberries and vanilla foam brought the night to an end.

The information and guidance that each of the participating students received was priceless.

Like the food, the information was filling and very satisfying. A Distinguished Visiting Chef Scholarship was awarded to JWU student Luis Young. It will allow him to continue his culinary studies.

All the students this year walk away with a newfound sense of fine culinary skill and a trendsetting cooking technique, with much thanks to Wilcox.

Wilcox is currently a private chef who orchestrates “five-star,’’ multiple-course, in-home dinner parties and prepares gourmet hors d’oeuvres for cocktail parties and receptions. His philosophy is that the utensils used for plating dishes are the “paintbrushes,” and the serving plates are the “canvases.’’

He lives by the motto “make it nice or make it twice.’’

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT STAFF. Chef Tre Wilcox