David C. Wilson Sr.: Restaurateur, respected civic leader in Cedar Hill

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Published: 11 February 2016 11 February 2016

Cedar Hill, TX - David C. Wilson Sr. was a foodie who believed in serving his staff, customers and community.

He started as an apprentice waiter and worked his way to general manager at Brennan’s in New Orleans. He later was GM at the famous restaurant’s Dallas location. His wide-ranging career included corporate positions with Spaghetti Warehouse and as head of his namesake restaurant in Cedar Hill.

Wilson, 69, died Monday, surrounded by friends and family at a home in Midlothian.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Duncanville, where he was an active member. Visitation will be at the church one hour before the service.

“Part of his philosophy was serving ... and that includes not just the people who come in your door, but the community,” said his son Shawn Wilson of Highland Village.

Shawn and his two brothers plan to maintain their father’s legacy through both David’s Seafood Grill and community involvement.

“We want the community to know: He started it, we will continue it,” his son said.

Wilson melded his culinary and leadership skills on the many boards he served, said longtime friend Carolyn McKee of Cedar Hill.

“He would donate cooking dinner in your home for 10 people,” McKee said. “We get $1,500, $2,000 for those kinds of events.”

Wilson was born in Kansas City, Mo. He grew up in Fairhope, Ala., and New Orleans, where he graduated from high school. He spent summers in Florida, where his grandfather had a restaurant.

His culinary career started at Brennan’s, where he progressed through the organization, including a stint at the Friendship House in Mississippi. He was a Brennan’s general manager for 13 years, including five at the Dallas location, which opened in 1969.

Wilson was elected president of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association in 1972.

In 1986, Wilson joined Spaghetti Warehouse, where as vice president of research and development, he helped build the restaurant chain from eight to 37 locations. He became Spaghetti Warehouse’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In 1994, an Applebee’s franchise group in Northern California recruited Wilson to build its business. He returned to Texas in 2001 to become a partner of a group of Dallas restauranteurs who had started the Rockfish Seafood Grill chain.

Wilson was chef partner of the new Rockfish restaurant in Cedar Hill and as a corporate partner in developing the group’s other locations. In 2006, he purchased the Cedar Hill location and renamed it David’s Seafood Grill.

He was an active member of the Texas Restaurant Association. In Cedar Hill, he had been a board member and officer with groups including the Economic Development Corporation, the Education Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce.

In January, Cedar Hill honored Wilson with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s a big deal in Cedar Hill; they don’t do that every year,” McKee said. “It’s not something they do and try and find somebody to fit the bill.”

In addition to his son, Wilson is survived by two other sons, David Wilson Jr. of Lakeville, Minn., and Jason Wilson of Cape Coral, Fla.; half brothers Bob Gary of Breaux Bridge, La., and John Roy of Connecticut; a half sister, Joy Williams of California; and three grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Bridges Safehouse or Hope Mansion Maternity Home.

Source: Dallas Morning News

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