Chef Q&A with the Tavern on the Square’s Paul Wade
Q1: Where are you from? What brought you to Vail?
I’m from Northern California mostly, Sonoma in particular although I am an army brat and lived overseas much of my early years growing up.
I came to Vail initially in 1995 from Maui. I was recruited to take the helm as Executive Chef at The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. I was later recruited to Aspen to helm the Little Nell and later returned to Vail as Executive Chef / F&B at the Lodge at Vail during the Wildflower days, in 2010. I’m particularly a huge fan of Vail Resorts!
Q2: What does food mean to you, and what inspires you about being a Chef?
Food is about nurturing, caring and expression as an art, as well as exploration of global cultural and culinary anthropology, and how it shapes our history as a species- how weather and climate change what and how we eat; those mechanics. Absolutely fascinating.
I am inspired by my profession because it allows me to apply the sciences, teaching, creativity, logistical planning, art, business (product positioning, procurement, marketing). It’s super right left brain operating and I’m always on the move. Plus, there is a certain fluidity and unpredictability, perhaps even sense of lawlessness that demands spontaneity. It’s exciting and fun!
Q3: Current favorite ingredient(s) to cook with, or style of cooking?
I’ll always come back to simple. Life is so complex, it’s nice to have a break from a contrived world. Geographically, I suppose Northern Italian and SE Asian are where my heart lies. But I do enjoy northernEuropean cuisines as well; making salumi, sausage, cheeses, dumplings, braising and game.
Stylistically, I follow a three component rule; there is the center of plate (not always meat any longer) there is an accompaniment that compliments (think grilled chicken with a summer corn succotash or arugula and artichokes) Then there is a seasoning vehicle- citronette, vinegarette, butter, jus, marinade, aioli, stock reduction, chimmichurri et al. Anything else is fluff, but sometimes a little clever tweak can set your product apart from the pack.
Q4: Proudest moment in your Chef career?
I’m supposed to say James Beard Award or Representing America at Food and Wine Australia, or holding the top 5 food score in the US for 3 years running in the Conde Nast Gold List, on and on.
BUT- In the end, all of that is meaningless, and all these years of relentless battles against imagined mediocrity; I had it all wrong. Here’s what really drives me; when I see my former cooks become successful chefs, fathers, mothers, teachers, mentors, break new ground in the profession and win amazing awards in their own right and command their own team with insightful and fair leadership. Makes me so proud.
Q5: Describe the food culture in Vail, and some highlights. (favorite restaurants, events, etc.)
I love Gourmet on Gore, Taste of Vail, Oktoberfest. My favorite restaurants are varied, The Tavern of course, Mountain Standard, the 10th, Moe’s, Terra Bistro, Game Creek.
I feel that the food culture in Vail has improved and become very sophisticated in recent years, due in part to the maturation and/or influx of transplanted talent, but also Colorado as a whole has become a verifiable Foodie State right up there with the West Coast, yet packing our very own Rocky Mountain punch.
I think some of that was driven by our well traveled ski clientele initially, as local, sustainable and unique ingredients created a demand and an expectation. This “allowed” local chefs to push the envelope and they certainly have.
Q6: If you weren’t a Chef, what would you be doing?
I have a pro bono/non profit record label here in Vail, that said, I would be working as a professional sound engineer and musician full time.
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