His goal: to own a restaurant by his early 30s. Today at 32, he’s at the helm of Cribbs Kitchen, Willy Taco, and Cribbs Catering and is considered the culinary heartbeat of Spartanburg for his fresh seasonal southern fare offered at mid-range prices. Willy Taco’s second location—a nearly $2 million investment revitalizing the Historic Feed and Seed building in Midtown Greenville—will open in early 2017.
For William, cooking has always meant family. His dream of becoming a chef grew from meals put together by his parents, Lynn and Billy Cribb, both great cooks. “Food and hospitality were big at our house,” he says. “On weekends the dinner table was always filled with guests.”
In middle school, he worked at Gerhard’s Café in Spartanburg, where owner Gerhard Grommer became his first mentor and life-long friend. “That’s where I first saw the excitement of being behind the line and learned the language of being a chef,” William says. “Gerhard made me want to be in the restaurant business.”
William worked as a sauté chef for five years at the Antares Restaurant in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, learning the fundamentals of cooking under Chef Rocky Lebrun. During summers, he managed the kitchen at Relia’s Garden at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. “Every year, I took what learned from Rocky in Colorado and put it to work in North Carolina,” he says.
In 2007, William moved back to Spartanburg with opening a restaurant in mind. He credits his success largely to his colleagues and partners—former S.C. Restauranteur of the Year Bill Burton, Richard Heatley, Eric Holman, and brother Kenneth Cribb (partners in Willy Taco) and Raj Patel (partner in Cribbs Kitchen). His sister Lee Cribb oversees operations at Cribbs Catering.
“Bill Burton has really helped me develop my business side,” William says. “He saw something in me and taught me what it takes to operate a restaurant outside the kitchen.”
Community involvement is a passion for William, whether it’s serving on the board of trustees of the Spartanburg Area Conservancy, cooking for local fundraisers, or speaking at schools. The Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce named Cribbs Kitchen Small Business of the Year for 2016. Cribbs Catering won the Herald Journal 2016 Best of Spartanburg Award for Best Caterer.
William could not do what he loves without his wife Bekah and children Hayden and Zoey. “They support and inspire me every day,” he says. “Family is the driving motivation.”