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Frisco STYLE Magazine

Celebrity Chef

Mar 01, 2022 ● By Lisa Sciortino

Chef Paul Wahlberg insists that he spends the bulk of his workdays as most people do.

“Putting out fires,” he says.

Here’s hoping those flames are figurative and that they aren’t emanating from the kitchens at any of the 86 U.S. or international locations of Wahlburgers, the restaurant chain that he co-owns with his celebrity brothers, A-list actor Mark Wahlberg and New Kids on the Block singer-turned-actor Donnie Wahlberg.

“There’s always things that we’re doing,” the chef explained of his busy schedule during an early February visit to Wahlburgers’ Frisco location at The Star (it was the second time he’d returned to the restaurant since it opened in 2019).

He said he “fell in love” with the city and The Star early on. “It’s beautiful. Obviously, the Cowboys do everything top notch, and … Frisco is such an amazing area and it’s growing all the time.”

 While visiting here, Wahlberg and members of his team from the company’s Boston-area headquarters also stopped by a Frisco fire station and offices of local community organizations “just to drop off food and say hello and say thank you for just supporting” the local restaurant. “Everybody’s been so great and so receptive,” he said.

Wahlberg’s daily to-do list frequently includes traveling to check in on his restaurants and attending various meetings. He also still puts on his chef coat and cooks and is involved with developing new items to add to the Wahlburgers menu. “People want something new, but then they want the same things over and over again, (so) there’s that balance,” he said.

One dish unlikely to ever exit the menu is the Our Burger, which is topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, the chain’s exclusive Wahl Sauce and “government cheese” (aka American cheese).

“It’s the classic American burger, and when I want to have a burger, that’s the way I go,” the chef said. “That’s the burger style we grew up eating. … You get that onion for a little bit of pungency but there’s also a little bit of sweetness in there. You have the tomatoes, that beautiful texture with the lettuce and the acid in the pickles brings out all of the other flavors so it cuts through the fat and richness” of the meat. “And then the Wahl Sauce complements it all.”

Any great burger starts with “great ingredients – fresh beef, beautiful tomatoes, all of those things,” he said. “But really, it’s what you like on it because everybody’s taste is different.”

Like his famous younger brothers, Chef Wahlberg is also a celebrity, having co-starred from 2014-19 on the A&E network reality series Wahlburgers. The show followed the brothers as Paul ran the restaurants and Mark and Donnie tended to their respective careers. The men are three of the nine Wahlberg siblings who grew up in Dorchester, a working-class Boston neighborhood.

These days, Paul Wahlberg said, “It’s funny when people come up and they’ll identify me. …`You’re that guy from the show.’”

On the small screen, he frequently served as the butt of his brothers’ jokes. In real life, he said, “There’s slightly less chaos and there’s the goodhearted ribbing (about) different things, but it’s not like it is on the show. But I’ll tell you, (Mark and Donnie) are pros when it comes to their thoughts and their concerns” about the restaurants. “I’m blessed to be able to work with them.”

 Wahlberg said, “You’re never prepared” for the fame that comes with starring on a reality television series, but “at least I had an idea,” having followed his brothers’ high-profile careers. “Donnie is constantly rehearsing, constantly staying in shape. Mark is the same way. … They’re always go, go, go. … They’ve always worked hard, and I couldn’t be prouder to watch them do their thing and the dedication they have to their crafts.”

While he had “great experiences” filming the series, the chef said he never got used to having cameras focused on him. “There are times when you know that it’s on, and there are other times when you’re not paying attention and you can relax.”

Above all, it was important to him that his television persona mirrored his real-life personality. “I don’t want (people) to think (I was) different on the show. The idea of me is being true to who I am and what I do and … the passion I have for being in the restaurant business and making people happy and feeding people.”

Another plus about filming the series was that it provided Wahlberg an opportunity to spend additional time with his brothers as well as their beloved mother, Alma Wahlberg, who also co-starred. A fan favorite, she passed away in April 2021.

“Every once in a while, especially early on Saturday mornings, I’ll catch a rerun and I’ll get to spend time (with her),” he said. “The hard thing for a lot of kids is to see their parents the way others will see them. Working with my mom, I got to see her the way other people see her and that was a blessing that I don’t think I would have gotten hadn’t it been for the show.”

 Although he doesn’t feel a need to venture back into television at this time, in the future, “If something comes up and it’s the right opportunity, sure, we’d love to take part in it,” Wahlberg said. “But I’m kind of doing my own thing right now and I’m happy doing it.”