Chef David Wilcox spent his career thus far wandering, from Michigan to Venice to Maui to up and down the California coast. So it's no wonder that his new Los Angeles restaurant, launched earlier this year and focused on engaging diners and the community, is named Journeyman.
When and where are you most creative?
When the music is on and I'm able to stop the world.
How did you get your start?
My mom and dad had sex… I sold weed and spent my free time on a farm in Michigan. I started teaching myself to cook with the produce I would take home from the farm, and throw dinner parties.
What are you working on right now?
Just opened Journeymen in Los Angeles. It is a restaurant that aims to serve great food, and offer a unique experience. We are also addressing the need for a holistic approach to restaurant management.
What is success to you?
It comes one day at a time. Little successes developed from building good relationships in my personal and work life. Everything is built on relationships.
Do critics matter?
Most have too much influence (Michael Bauer in San Francisco). Some can help guide us towards a better understanding of the culture we are in. We have a dining public that relies less on a critic's opinion.
Obviously you've seen success in your career but can you tell us about a time you failed?
I fail all the time. It's how we learn. I don't put weight on failure other than an opportunity to grow. Bread is a great example… You can learn from failure as much or more than from success.
Do you think about legacy?
When I look at my son every day. Guiding him into being a thoughtful, kind, and confident young man is the future.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into your industry?
Have a strong work ethic, integrity in what you do, be humble, and have a great attitude.
Did you ever give up (or want to give up)? What were the circumstances?
Felt defeated, sure. The answer is to always get a fresh perspective, usually through travel.
What trends in your field do you find most exciting or are you most optimistic about? What about your field is frustrating? What would you like to see change?
A return to cooking/fundamentals. The pursuit of cooking as a craft and not as art. Science is a useful tool, don't be a slave to it. Recognize we are part of nature, and honor that relationship. Don't bastardize everything for the sake of hubris. I'd like to see the amount of waste restaurants produce reduce drastically.
How do you plan to build on your success so far? Is there anything you fear will set you back?
Run businesses that challenge the status quo. Be equitable in how we run things. Train people holistically. Invest in our people and communities. Spend our money as a vote. Our only concern is to follow through every day on these things. Set backs come. Your attitude and how you deal with them is what makes things work.
What was the first moment you knew you were going to be able to do this as a job – not necessarily your first big break or success, but the first time you thought, "This is it, this is my career"?
With the joy I found in learning to cook while working on the farm.
What's been the biggest choice you've had to make in your career so far?
To move to LA and be away from my son for a few years while seeing him less. He's here with me now, and helps me at JM.
What is your morning routine like?
Make Oriia breakfast, have coffee, start bread…
What are you most excited about for the future?
Travel, more work, spending time with my loved ones, being present and enjoying the process.
What are you most worried about for the future?
I don't worry, however, I would like to see a world that makes a change for a better future for our kids. What that means is another story.
Are you good at giving advice? What is the best advice you've ever given?
Are you good at receiving advice? What is the best advice you've ever received?
Be humble. Just listen….
What makes a person beautiful? What makes you beautiful?
A person's spirit. Who they are underneath all that skin, flesh, and bones. I try to be thoughtful and considerate to those around me.
What are you most proud of?
My son, Oriia.