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Rising Stars: Meet Brian Wistreich

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Wistreich.

Hi Brian, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Hi guys, sure thing! My name is Brian Wistreich, I’m 27 years old and I run Gatsby’s Kitchen Food Truck in Raleigh, NC. I’ve always loved food and had a passion for cooking, which allows me the opportunity to make something of my own so that others can enjoy it. My first job ever was at a Boston Market back home in NJ, and from then on I knew that the restaurant scene was the place where I wanted to be and felt most comfortable.

I worked for a few other restaurants in my hometown while attending high school, doing anything and everything from washing dishes to waiting tables to cooking on the line. While attending Penn State University, I worked in a fast-paced burger and shakes restaurant called Baby’s where I was really able to teach myself and learn from others everyday. Anyone who knows me knows that I thrive being behind a grill and interacting with customers, so I worked in that restaurant for three years and loved every minute of it.

Shortly after graduating college, where I received my BA in Broadcast Journalism, I moved to Washington, DC because I wanted to go out on a limb and try to do my own thing. I didn’t have a job when I moved there, but not long after I was given the opportunity to work at Capital One Arena on the sales team selling tickets for the Washington Wizards and Capitals. I worked on the sales team for a year before being promoted to a Coordinator role, which gave me the opportunity to now help out with the concerts/shows at the arena, as well as work on some cool projects such as planning the Washington Mystics WNBA Championship parade in downtown DC.

Everything was great until……Covid. Obviously, sports were impacted tremendously by the pandemic, and so as the snowball effect began I found myself furloughed from my job with no indication as to when I would be able to return. A few months went by and I missed the restaurant atmosphere, so I picked up a job in DC working at a bagel shop, splitting time between the brick and mortar location as well as working at their second location which happened to be on a food truck. Little did I know how much working on the food truck would benefit me.

One day while still in DC, I got a call from a longtime friend of mine from back home in NJ, who currently lives in Raleigh with her husband. She asked me if I had any interest in starting up my own food truck, as her dad owns a bar in Raleigh (Gatsby’s Bar) and they were looking to add a food element since the bar doesn’t have a kitchen space. I thought about all of the times where I would daydream about this exact opportunity, and so after some deliberation, I told her I absolutely wanted to do it…

After that phone call, I packed up my belongings and moved to Raleigh two months later to start my new venture. And thus, Gatsby’s Kitchen was born.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I can’t say it’s been easy, but so far my transition from DC to Raleigh has been pretty smooth. The hardest part about my new venture has been the fact that I jumped into this opportunity with no prior business experience. Everything I’ve accomplished thus far has been from asking the right questions and taking constructive criticism to get better each day. Thankfully, I’ve met some exceptional people and cooked some great food to help the business continue to grow.

It was especially hard to leave my girlfriend back in DC, who had to stay in order to finish up a certification for her Veterinary Technician program. And while the long distance was not ideal, it gave me the opportunity to be on my own schedule to work my butt off and put in the long hours to get Gatsby’s Kitchen up and running. Thankfully, she’s since moved to Raleigh and we plan on being here for the foreseeable future.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I would say that something I’m known for is taking the ordinary and figuring out ways to take it to the next level. My menu consists of classic bar food (burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, etc.) but with my own twist.

One example of this would be my fried pickles, which have quickly become my best-selling item and have been called the best in all of Raleigh. I take thinly sliced pickle chips, coat them in my own blend of flour and seasoning, and fry them until crispy. Fresh out of the fryer, I toss the pickle chips in ranch seasoning, and they are served with a side of my homemade burger sauce. The burger sauce is a crowd favorite and can be described as the perfect blend between Bojangles and Chick-Fil-A sauce.

Another example of a frequently ordered item is “The Big Cheese”, which is a classic grilled cheese sandwich but kicked up a notch. One of my favorite meals growing up was grilled cheese and tomato soup, and I wanted to figure out a way to bring that to my menu without having to keep hot soup on the truck. The sandwich consists of grilled sourdough, mozzarella and queso fresco cheese (which I also grill on the flat top), and homemade romesco sauce which acts as an ode to the tomato soup. The sauce is made up of roasted tomatoes and red peppers, which I blend together with olive oil and a blend of spices and ladle onto the sandwich before adding chopped parsley and closing it up. With each bite, you get the crunchy bread, gooey cheese, and burst of tangy tomato/red pepper sauce to heighten and compliment the sandwich. I also offer hand-cut french fries which I cut every morning, fried until golden brown, and then tossed in your choice of seasoning (garlic and herb, ranch, or bbq) in order to take ordinary french fries to the next level.

Besides buying the physical produce, all of my menu items are homemade and prepped every day to ensure my customers are getting the freshest and most delicious version of whatever item they order.

What I’m most proud of is my work ethic and adaptability to different situations. Working in the customer service industry, I always have to be ready as each day brings new opportunities as well as difficulties that I need to overcome. What sets me apart is that I always try and be prepared for anything that may come my way, as well as my ability to make my customers feel like they are regulars even if it’s their first time coming to the truck.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
I believe my greatest strength to be my interpersonal skills. I’ve always been able to talk to anyone about anything, finding common ground and trying to connect on a more personal level. These skills have benefited me greatly working in the customer service industry and allow me to create relationships with my customers that are much more than just a transaction.

Pricing:

  • . $4.99 – $14.99 depending on the item or upgrades

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