Doug Walls, executive chef of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, is all about cooking and giving back. In addition to cooking for about 116,000 guests per year, appearing on the Food Network‘s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” food blogging for Ingles and juggling a family and career, his main mission is to help two ministries: New Direction Ministries/The Mustard Seed Project, which helps support single mothers, and Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth and Families, which is a foster home for kids in need.
“I’ll cook for fundraisers and do barbecues — anything that helps,” he says.
Making a positive impact on the lives of others is in Walls’ blood. Born in Charleston, W.Va., he grew up on a farm in Madison County, where his father ran an organization that helped troubled teens. Walls’ mother, a licensed professional counselor, also helps with the ministry, which has moved closer to downtown Asheville and has a slightly different focus today.
Xpress recently talked with Walls about his work as a chef, his star turn on “Cutthroat Kitchen” and more.
Mountain Xpress: How long have you been with The Cove? What did you do before this?
Doug Walls: I’ve been here six years. Before this, I worked at Montreat College and then worked on my family’s farm in Madison County.
What’s a recent event you did at The Cove?
We had about 200 guests for the 100-year anniversary of Montreat College. That was a pretty big deal.
How many staff do you have?
I have three sous chefs, a pastry chef and a dishwasher/prep person. We also hire people as needed from Recovery Ventures Corp. for special events.
Is The Cove open to the public?
It is, but you have to attend a seminar or training. You can’t just stop in for a sandwich.
You recently appeared on the Food Network. Tell me about that.
I was one of four chefs chosen to appear on an episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” I came in second, but it was a great experience. It was an episode called, “The Pesto Times, the Worst of Times.” You can see it on YouTube.
Did you go to culinary school?
Yes. I attended A-B Tech. I’m still involved with the program and sit on the board. I wish more chefs would get involved with the program.
Are you married? Kids?
I’ve been married to Jamie for about a year. She’s amazing. We have two kids — a 1-year old and a 3-year old.
Do you have a signature menu item?
Not really, but my blue cheese bread pudding is getting some attention lately. Everything we make is from scratch, and we change the menus seasonally.
What are three ingredients you could not live without?
Heavy cream, butter and salt.
What do you enjoy making most?
Soups and sauces.
What would you order as a last meal?
Mac and cheese, chicken fingers or a hamburger — something that’s messy. I’ll leave the gourmet stuff here.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
My chef’s knife. It’s a Wusthof. I only use Wusthof. Also, a good chopping block — specifically Boos.
Any secrets for sharpening your knife?
I don’t sharpen it. I throw it out and get a new one — about every six months. It’s got to be sharp.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the culinary field, who would it be?
Plans for the future?
I’ve got a lot of those. I like being busy. For starters, I’d like to do a cookbook one day. That’s kind of funny because I don’t really read cookbooks. If I need to create something, it’s mostly out of my head or based on a magazine I’ve recently read. I try to keep up with articles in publications like Bon Appétit. My wife has been a great partner and recently launched a website for me too: www.chefdouglaswalls.com.