DeAndre Wilson
DeAndre Wilson isn’t your typical college student. By the time this story is published, he will be a college graduate and forging the path to his dream of owning a business — a food truck to be specific. DeAndre is the type of person who makes you feel optimistic about the future. You might just think DeAndre is a kid with a dream; but, after talking with him, you quickly realize — DeAndre is a man with a rock-solid plan, and that plan is delicious.

Meet DeAndre

I’m born and raised in Evansville, Indiana. When I graduated from the old North High School, I knew I wanted to stay and I just knew what I wanted to do. 

After some research and talking with different people, the Ivy Tech Hospitality program really stood out to me. It puts you in the community right away; I was planning events before I really knew how. I was so fascinated by the fact that I could take what we’d learned in a classroom and really apply it right away. I worked the front desk at a few hotels previously and applied what we learned in Customer Service class. When business travelers check-in, you have to really be there for them, show them a lot of attention, and help them navigate. I did that for 6 years and really loved it. Another great part of culinary arts and the hospitality industry is you can experience a lot. I can get a job anywhere I please — from Disney to any other cruise ship, a hotel, the not-for-profit sector, you name it. I can go anywhere.

Turn Tables

My friend, Jeff Gott, who is amazing, and I are starting our own business — Turn Tables. We do a lot of research on different flavor combinations. We fuse a lot of spices together. What I find that I like to do is take a pork or beef tenderloin, for example, and just stuff it with a mixture of spices or vegetables. We’ll try anything! I find that to be a fun experiment and it’s working out pretty good. 

We hope to have a food truck or concession trailer — either one will get the job done. The logo that everyone’s been seeing on social media was created by Matt Wagner. The process behind that has been going on for three years. Originally, Jeff and I traveled almost everywhere to understand how food trucks are done in larger cities, and we got a lot of solid research from those food truck owners. We received recipes and a lot of helpful tips. We were able to build a successful business plan, and we’re now in the stages of developing the brand. Our food truck will serve international comfort food. I don’t want to give away too much just yet, but pay attention to our social media and you’ll be able to see myself and Jeff experiment with those fusion recipes, stuffing whatever we possibly can and experimenting how we can. 

The food truck community in Evansville is very open, very welcoming. I’ve talked to a few of the food truck owners, and they want to see the culture grow. One day while developing my own business plan, I sat outside where the food trucks are located in downtown Evansville. I sat there with pen and paper and I was counting how many customers would come up to the food trucks between 10 am and 2 pm — the perfect market research. I was just out there talking, meeting people, I got a million questions that day — ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you eating?’ but I was there to do work and I got a lot of useful research and information that I applied to our business plan that really helped us develop it along the way.

What do you know for sure?

I know for sure that presentation is everything. Especially in culinary arts. You eat with your eyes first, and so that’s why the photos on my social media — the plate presentation — has to be at a 10 every single time. So in the future, when we go into business we’ll have that high standard.

Who would you most like to cook for and why? And, if you could have a meal with anyone, who would it be?

If I could cook for anyone in the whole world, I would say Jay Z and Beyonce. The reason why I pick Jay Z, is because he’s a successful businessman, and then Beyonce is just gorgeous — come on now! To sit there and hang out with them all day and then get them to critique what I prepared for them would be a dream. They eat everywhere so they know what’s the best. And of course, I want to start a business, and Jay Z is all about business so to sit and talk with him for hours would be amazing.

If I could eat a meal with anyone, it would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — if he was still alive. I think we’d have an excellent conversation.

How do you see the food scene in Evansville changing?

The food scene in Evansville is evolving — it is amazing! You can really go anywhere if you have the taste for something and get it. It’s getting more local and that’s what I like to see. My favorite place in Evansville to go eat is Walton’s. When I go there, I try to get something different each time. Just the atmosphere, the location, the vibe — I love all of it.

My favorite assumption to test is “oh it’s boring”. While we do have a lot to do here, we need to focus on, increase the experience, and find new ways to draw people in. So to me, “e is for everyone” — I take the “e” as the experience. The experience that you gain from being in Evansville.

But then on the other side, our citizens need to be more open and go experience the attractions we have. So it goes back and forth. But, to say Evansville is boring — I disagree; but how do we change that perception?

Increasing cultural diversity is something our community leaders are working to address. What advice would you lend from your perspective as a minority and a Millennial?

The advice I’d give our community leaders to help increase cultural diversity as a Millennial is simply we need something to do. All my peers travel every weekend, and so if they’re constantly traveling, that damages the local economy because they’re taking that money out. But if we developed events and attractions here, they’d stay on the weekends. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or group of friends says, ‘I’m outta here.’ on Friday and then comes back late Sunday.

Simply by developing new restaurants, events, and attractions, the hospitality industry greatly benefits our local economy. It’s important to understanding that there needs to be diversity in those events and attractions, and that’s how you keep everyone here and happy.