A simple description of Paul Wade would say he is a chef in Vail, and it may even elabo- rate to list the restaurants on his resume and his decorated career of awards and accom- plishments.
But those who know Wade well — and even for those who have had the pleasure of knowing or working with him for a short time — would likely agree that there is nothing “simple” about him, his contributions or his accolades. He is as dynamic and impassioned as the dishes he develops for menus; as inspired and creative as the music he composes at home to wind down after work.
Now in his fifties, Wade’s career has taken him from his roots in Sonoma, California, to the island of Maui and then to the Colorado moun- tains. He worked his way up early from pastry chef to line cook to sous chef, then to executive chef at several highly acclaimed establishments including Chanterelle in California, Wildflower in Vail and The Little Nell in Aspen.
Even as a James Beard Award-winning chef, Wade had the curiosity to explore other angles of the industry. He traded in his chef coat for a short time to learn the management side of res- taurants. He ran the food and beverage depart- ment at The Sebastian in Vail, and then opened The 10th Restaurant on Vail Mountain, guiding that project from hard hat to a fully functioning and successful establishment. He didn’t stay in a suit for too long, however, as it’s in the kitchen where Wade feels most at home.
“I enjoyed it,” shares Wade of his time in management, “but I prefer the free spirited, free-form thinking of being a chef. Now I can use both skills and be even more productive. But in my heart I know I am a chef.”
OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN
The talent that Wade has so abundantly shared through his culinary skills isn’t the only way he expresses himself and connects with the world.
He’s been a musician for most of his life as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He’ll often work on his recordings for a couple hours per day, often after work and late into the night. He now has more than 40 songs he has composed. “I’m lucky that we have the technology today to produce what I’m able to produce,” Wade shares.
When his artistic well runs dry sometimes, Wade taps into the bodies of work that he cre- ates in the times when he is feeling passionate and productive. In unveiling songs and recipes, it’s a process that keeps Wade inspired.
“I have so many unfinished songs,” he says. “Then I’ll go back, even years later, mixing and mastering. When you’re at that stage you are no longer the artist, you are the technician. I think the key is to know how to tap into those inner wells; it’s OK to not alway be wildly passionate and creative, and it’s OK to go slow sometimes and go fast others.”
Wade and his wife, Cris, met on Maui and have been married for 24 years. It was surprising to them, Wade shared, that Colorado stole their hearts as much or more than Maui had done.
“I was that sun-tan guy in flip flops,” he shares. “When I flew out here to interview for execu- tive chef at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, I was thinking that there is no place in the world that was going to be able to top living on Maui.” Once he saw the Rocky Mountains, Wade says his “jaw dropped.” He and Cris packed their bags and moved.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he promises. “We are die-hard Colorado residents. This is where we want to be — the Vail Valley.” The couple shares a love of animals and they have adopted many dogs together.
“We look for rescues,” Wade says. “And we tend to pick harder cases — the ones that come out of hard situations. We devote our time and energy to love them and give them a safe environment.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
Wade is currently executive chef at The Arrabelle at Vail Square in Lionshead. He says guests can expect some exciting new menu items this summer at Tavern on the Square, along with some of the restaurant’s well-loved classics. Wade’s menu highlights unique presentations and flavors to showcase alpine- inspired cuisine with a sophisticated twist. Outside of The Arrabelle, Wade chairs the Chefs Alliance for Vail Resorts, a committee of all the resort chefs in the company. This group of talent includes over two dozen chefs from all over the world, and Wade says he learns something all the time from his colleagues.
“If I listen, that’s when I learn,” says Wade. “I have gotten to see the emerging generations, and these kids have taught me so much.”
Of all the hats he has worn in his life, Wade says the roles he has had where knowledge is exchanged have made and continue to make the most impact on his life. After being in the food and beverage business for over 35 years, Wade says it’s all about paying it forward.
“I’m a teacher and a student at the same time,” he explains. “The single greatest con- tribution I can make to this industry and to humanity is to be a teacher and light the path for others. Nothing gives me a greater sense of fulfillment than that — it’s greater than any award. That is what legacy is.”