Photographer Katie Oblinger and I set out to interview The Optimist's new head chef Wesley True last week. It was our first chef interview and photo shoot, and we were both a little nervous. As soon as we walked in and met Chef True we were immediately at ease. He was warm and friendly, and the restaurant had clean lines, contemporary design, and great vibes. Katie got photos of True that captured his spirit and fun loving personality. After the shoot, I sat down with him and let him tell me his story.
Wesley True reminds me of Chef Dan Barber's episode of Chef's Table. Chef Barber of Blue Hill Farm speaks eloquently about plating and the connection between food and art and community, and you can tell by watching him that his love for food drives him to genius. I feel the same way about Chef True. He is humble, but he knows he excels at his craft. He is confident without coming off as arrogant. He is a man in search of the best version of himself as a chef. He talks of his personal journey to find the connection between art and food, and his desire to be true to himself and show Atlanta his best work. He is honored to be the head chef at The Opitmist and uphold the impeccable reputation Chef Ford Fry and Chef Adam Evans put into motion, but he's also looking forward to making part of it his own. After spending an hour with Chef True, Katie and I are certain we sat in the presence of a genius and one of the fastest rising stars in Atlanta's culinary scene.
Chef Wesley True met and married his wife in Alabama while working at True Restaurant. He worked their for five years, during which time he won the AAA 4 Diamond Award, was a two time James Beard Nominee for Best Chef South, and was featured in Garden & Gun. Although they loved working at True Restaurant and loved the South, they were in search of more. Doing something we've all dreamed about, yet few of us actually do, True and his wife counted their savings, quit their jobs, and along with a new born baby went out in search of their dreams.
Everything I've ever done in my life has always worked out, and I don't know if it's that I try to be a good person or if I'm just super lucky, but everything always works out. I almost failed out of culinary school and I became a James Beard Nominee years later.
During that time Chef True interviewed. He met several influential people, one of which was Ford Fry. After their initial meeting, True went home to his wife and told her, "I'm going to work for Ford Fry."
I worked in really good restaurants. I was never the best cook in the restaurant. I knew I had an end goal, which was to be a chef, and I was never a great line cook, but I was super creative, and I just kept pushing.
He did not go to work for Ford Fry right away. He initially went to work with Concentrics Restaurant Group. Although he holds them in high esteem, he says it wasn't a perfect fit. When True got the opportunity to take over has Head Chef at Ford Fry's The Optimist he jumped at the opportunity.
There was just something about when Ford and I talked... The way restaurants are run, the way people are treated, the way restaurants are structured were identical. I felt the structure of his company was something I really needed to be an amazing chef.
True took over from Chef Adam Evans. The two had worked together at several events and got along well. It was a natural fit for Evans to train True and introduce him to the kitchen, which made for a smooth transition. Although True loves the food and dining experience at The Optimist, he is excited about the future and making his mark on the Oyster Bar.