Trey Chapman sits down with Hook & Barrel.

Trey Chapman’s passion for food and fun is as big as Texas. As a self-proclaimed “ultimate food experience guy,” Chapman publishes Trey’s Chow Down, a popular web site for all things food, drink, and fun in the Dallas and Ft. Worth area.

Offering more than just restaurant reviews, Trey’s Chow Down brings to life the entire dining experience, from the food to the ambience to the way the chefs interact with their customers.

“Dining is an experience,” he says, “an exploration for your palate as well as socializing and meeting new people.”

He seeks out hole-in-the-wall spots and champions ‘the little guy’ by highlighting food trucks and suburban restaurants in addition to fine dining establishments. He begins a review by simply sitting at the bar or a table at the back of the restaurant to take in the atmosphere. “I am a big fan of open kitchens,” he says. “It is a friendlier atmosphere when everyone can see each other. I also like it when chefs come out of the kitchen and talk to their customers.”

Chapman was raised in the restaurant business. His family opened their first eatery, Lacy’s, in Lake Worth, Texas, in 1905. As a youth, Chapman worked in many facets of the family business, providing hands-on experience and acute insight about the industry, including the importance of offering a great dining experience. He recounts one key lesson he learned from his grandfather: “You cannot run a restaurant from the kitchen. You’ve got to talk to the customers, and you’ve got to see what’s going on.”

Chapman’s family also spent summers in Italy, which introduced him to the “Italian Art of Living” — a passion for community, great food and drink, laughter, and connection, what he calls the “experience of food and life,” that still informs his ethos.

After four decades working in the restaurant industry, Chapman transitioned about ten years ago to writing about and promoting restaurants. Chapman calls himself a “positive” reviewer, preferring to promote the industry in a positive way. His goal is “reaching people on a personal level by sharing my honest experiences.”

Although his own self-published site doesn’t have the vast reach of larger corporate food publications, his boundless positivity has earned him a large and loyal website following and social media audience. His annual “Best Burger” recommendations have become so hot he had to divide it into two lists: Classics and Gourmet.

It’s because of his passion for what he does that some of the world’s best-known chefs know Trey and are familiar with Trey’s Chow Down: Chefs like Stefon Rishel (see sidebar). Trey is also a regular for Texas news affiliates doing culinary stories.

“I am in love with food,” Chapman says — all kinds of food, from white tablecloth restaurants to the burger joint down the road. He especially loves those chefs who connect with their clients on a personal, heart-felt level. “Whether you are working out of a truck as a cowboy cook or in the top restaurant in Dallas,” he says, “it’s imperative to serve the customer.”

Wild Boar Guisado by Chef Stefon Rishel.

Time to Chow Down with this recipe:

Chapman admires fun and creative chefs like Stefon Rishel, Fort Worth’s Top Chef 2015. Rishel shares his recipe for Wild Boar Shoulder Guisado exclusively with Hook & Barrel.

Wild Boar Shoulder Guisado – feeds 6-8

Ingredients
3 lbs. cubed wild boar shoulder (Soak in milk overnight)
2 medium yellow onions diced
3 medium carrots diced
2 ribs celery diced
2 medium zucchini diced
2 cups diced potato (larger cut)
2 Tbsp. roasted jalapeno purée (add more if you like spicier)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 qtrs. chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup blackening seasoning
16 oz. dark Mexican beer, such as Negro Modelo

Directions
Drain and pat dry boar shoulder. Season boar with blackening spice and sear all sides in Dutch oven until browned. Reserve on side. Deglaze pan with beer and reduce by half. Add chicken stock, all vegetables and boar to the pot. Cover mostly and Simmer for 2 hours until boar is fork tender, potatoes have started to break down and the liquid has thickened. Add cilantro and jalapeño purée to taste, season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with freshly toasted corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, queso fresco, and lime wedges. Enjoy !

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