Virginia is bursting with farmers markets, farm-to-table and locally grown sourced eateries. Visitors and locals enjoy a wide variety of foodie experiences, including ghost kitchens, food trucks and restaurants.
Meet Trey Owens (he/him), owner of three Richmond, VA-based restaurants – Soul Taco JewFro and his newest endeavor Wok This Way. We asked Trey what fuels his passion for being a restaurateur, how he got started, and what he’s learned from his experience.
Where did you grow up, and how did that experience inspire your relationship with food and entrepreneurship?
I grew up in Fulton Hill right here in Richmond, VA. As a kid I would stay with my granny who would cook every meal and everyday. I was a fat kid so my favorite thing was being the taste tester. That cultivated my love for food in a way that nothing else has. I never imagined I’d be an entrepreneur as a kid because it was never really prevalent in the spaces I existed in but I knew that the traditional pathways that were suggested to me didn’t draw me in. Fortunately my talents made room for me and it’s been a dream come true.
Soul Taco has been a Richmond favorite for years. What led you to create it, and how has that experience been for you?
Soul Taco came together in the 3 months from when we signed the lease July 2018 until the opening Oct 2018. We were made an offer we couldn’t refuse on the rent so we started coming up with ideas and fortunately Southern soul food and Latino food is a match made in heaven. It has been the most rewarding/difficult decision I’ve ever made in my life. Being a restaurateur during a pandemic is not for the faint hearted.
JewFro is such a creative, innovative and fun restaurant concept. Where did you get the idea, and how would you describe the menu?
I got the idea for JewFro in a very “That’s So Raven” moment. We were doing a Christmas pop up called Jingle Belle and it was coming to an end and I didn’t want it to be over. I thought about it for a moment and it came to me in an instant. I was thinking about some comments Nick Cannon made and how we could educate the public about two culinary pathways that deserve more attention and BAM! ~ Jewish and African food. Then I thought what can we call it and JewFro popped out.
The menu is a deep dive into both the Jewish and African diaspora. We really want to pay respects to exactly where the flavors originate, so on the menu you’ll find a glossary that will tell you more about the exotic ingredients and exactly where they come from. My hope is that customers will come for the familiar and explore the unfamiliar. If we encourage at least one person to Google more about either culture then I’ve done what I set out to do.
We are hearing great things about your newest restaurant, Wok This Way in Richmond.
It’s in Richmond’s Arts District, Wok This Way is an Asian street-food concept dining experience and the theme inside is rock and roll with dishes from many, different Asian cultures, including our food and beverage menus. Richmond Black Restaurant Experience has bee a great supporter. Growing up in Richmond, I never knew designing and owning a restaurant was an option for me. To get the chance to see people who look like me, and are doing the same thing as me, is very empowering. My number one hope is that more people who look like me can see me, and know they can do it to, and I definitely want to give back in that way. Richmond Black Restaurant Experience has been an important way to do that.
We hear you are expanding your business footprint even more. Can you give us an update on your plans?
Absolutely!! Soul Taco – Raleigh, NC opened (our third location) June 1, 2022. JewFro – Raleigh, NC will also be opening its second location in the same building. I am also working on a brand new concept for downtown Petersburg. I’m excited to share details on that so STAY TUNED!!
When you are traveling in Virginia, what are a few of your favorite places to stay, eat, shop and play?
Petersburg Old Town District, Photo Credit: Georg Horvath
I love to go to the beach in the middle of winter and watch the crazy people do the polar plunge. I’m falling in love with Petersburg’s Old Town District. It’s such a beautiful area and I’m excited to spend more time there. I rarely get time to shop but Adiva Naturals in RVA’s Shockoe Bottom across the street from JewFro has the best soaps and lotions in the state.
I’m a thrill seeker so Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens – Williamsburg are where you’ll catch me frolicking like the kid I am at heart. And, of course, the State Fair of Virginia brings all my favorite activities together in one spot every year.