Kevin J. Wilson used to write restaurant reviews on his website phillyrestaurantreviews.com until tragedy struck. His mother passed away in 2011. Then, both his brother and sister passed away during the same week before Christmas in 2013.
As anyone would be as a result of the loss of immediate family members, he was beset by extreme grief and serious depression. He also had to come to terms with the fact that he gained 200 lbs. as a result of his restaurant activities. He needed something to keep him going. He funneled his heartache into writing a self-healing memoir that pays tribute to family members and also aimed at helping others who have experienced great loss. The book Table for One, which also contains photos from the finest restaurants in Philadelphia, was published on October 10, 2016.
Intrigued by his book and story, I reached out to Kevin and asked him some questions to learn more…
You used to be a food writer/restaurant reviewer. You say you gained 200 lbs. by dining out and writing about your restaurant experiences. Is that why you stopped writing/reviewing food? When did you stop? I owned and wrote about my dining experiences on phillyrestaurantreviews.com from November 2012 to December 2013 and stopped after I gained 200lbs. I suffer from vascular disease with venous stasis ulcers. My leg disease eventually forced me to leave my job. As my website was getting more successful and advertisers were starting to come on board, I went from 2-3 restaurants per week to going out almost every night.
What were your favorite or most memorable restaurants in the city that you reviewed? I love burgers and have 240 photos in my collection and I always say the fried pork belly and egg burger from Rembrandt Tavern at 23rd and Aspen was my favorite. I hated most of the fine dining restaurants including Vetri, but Volver and La Croix stood out. Fat Jack’s and Baby Blues BBQ are favorites in the BBQ division. I love Morimoto for sushi but hated the meal I had. The Dan Dan noodles at Han Dynasty are unexplainably incredible. I learned to love Indian food and Mediterranean food doing my website both of which I never had before the website. Laxmi’s Indian Grille (4425 Main Street in Manayunk) and Zahav being my favorites in those categories. I also love the brunch at Warmdaddy’s and Relish (7152 Ogontz Avenue in West Oak Lane). I mention in my book that one of my favorite restaurants of all time is The Pub in Pennsauken NJ for people who like to venture outside of the city.
The book is about the loss of your siblings. I’m sorry for your tragic losses. What else can you tell us about the book? My sister who helped me through my severe depression over the loss of my mother in 2011, passed away at 54 suddenly and without warning from a massive heart attack right before Christmas in 2013. While we were at her wake, I was informed that my brother who was battling a brain injury was taken off of life support. The restaurants are only in the book to show how I was dealing with the grief of my Mother, brother and sister and while writing the book I realized that I was going to the restaurants hoping to reconnect with my Mother who was a 5 star cook by finding a meal as good as the ones we had at home growing up. My Mother was a single parent of 6 and we had zero money and she was able to take zero money and make it a fine dining experience. It was also interesting while writing the book I realized that to save money on bread she would make Salisbury steak and we rarely had burgers and the majority of the restaurants I go to I order burgers. My book is a great tool for people who are grieving because it is not a restaurant book, but a book that shows people that you can experience great loss and tragedy and still keep moving forward. My dream, however, is still to write a book about my restaurant photo collection. I have been rejected by 17 publishing companies so far!
What do you like about the current restaurant scene in Philadelphia? Any favorite local chefs? The restaurant scene in Philadelphia is definitely on the rise. I dined at Abe Fisher and absolutely loved it. Cheu Noodle Bar was also great. I’m still not happy with the seafood or fine dining scene but Volver inside The Kimmel Center gave me hope because the meal was second to none every course was amazing. I tell everyone that I’ve been to all of Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurants and he’s never let me down. I always left with satisfaction that I got my money’s worth. Michael Solomonov has done an amazing job with Zahav and Abe Fisher; both are incredible so I think those two are the ones to beat.