MOORESVILLE – Brent Wilhelm didn’t try sushi until he was 18.
But once he started making it – and other Asian cuisines – at Joel’s Asian Grill off Williamson Road, he quickly got a taste for it.
Wilhelm has worked at both Joel’s and JJ Wasabi’s, which are both owned by Joel Paolo Jose, since 2005 – though he took a break for few years to attend culinary school. He said he considers Jose and the restaurant staff to be “an extended part” of his family.
This interview has been edited for length.
Mooresville Citizen: Have you always liked to cook?
Brent Wilhelm: I didn’t go to college or anything right out of high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And (Jose) got me on sushi at Joel’s when I was about 18, 19. And I decided that’s what I was good at and what I wanted to do.
MC: What do you like about preparing sushi?
BW: The mechanics of it are easy, but it’s just comparing flavors. I’m always getting better at plating and just the aesthetics of it and flavor profiling and how things come together and just creating new things all the time. That’s what I really enjoy about it. … And then you get people coming back. You get regulars that come in, and you create relationships with people, which is really cool. And that all stems from being at the sushi bar.
MC: And what do you like about cooking hibachi?
BW: I like doing it, and it’s very fast-paced. And it’s hot – very hot in the kitchen. But it’s really cool. And it’s a whole different dynamic, a whole different delegation of tickets and everything like that. The appetizers, the rice bowls. You have to learn to prioritize your hibachi grill, where things go, your hotspots and everything like that.
MC: What do you love about working at JJ’s?
BW: Not only do I love it because this is what I like to do, but I love the family. Because this is a family-owned restaurant. And I’ve been with them a long time. I feel like they’re an extended part of my family. And they’ve been really good to me and helped me grow so much. And I want to be a part of them growing in the years to come as well.