Q&A: Paul Wahlberg Talks New Wahlburgers Show

The chef discusses starring in the new A&E series with brothers Mark and Donnie, the fine art of Boston dining, and what it’s really like to be the boss.

paul-wahlberg

Photo provided by A&E

Between Mark and Donnie, the Wahlbergs are kind of a big deal in these parts. Chef Paul Wahlberg, the ringleader of Alma Nove and Wahlburgers—neighboring restaurants in Hingham—is a friendly addition to the now trio of Wahlbergs in the spotlight. He stars alongside Donnie and Mark in A&E’s new docu-series Wahlburgers, which follows the family as they run their burger joint.

We caught up with Paul at the premiere of Wahlburgers on Wednesday night. He tells us about family-inspired dishes, the challenges of running two restaurants at once, and what it’s really like working with Donnie and Mark.

First, congratulations on such a great night! I’m getting a really upbeat vibe from Wahlburgers, especially in the kitchen. What kind of environment do you like promote and share?

I love what I do. I have been cooking for a long time, and I’ve been worked for people who’re adding a lot of pressure—shall we say—during the course of the job. For me, the best part of this job is making people happy, and that’s going to translate [through] the food, so you need to have a staff that’s upbeat and excited about what they’re doing. When I walk back there [to the kitchen], I just make ’em laugh. I also teach them when they’re supposed to be taught, and I’ll explain what I’m looking for. But at the same time, I just want them to be excited, and to be happy to put the product out. It’s a view kitchen, you know? It’s a show.

What’s the best and worst part about being the boss?

Well, first, the worst part is having to do the boss stuff. The best part is making my staff happy. Because I work for them—I work for the customer and I work for my staff. I’ve worked for crazy people, and I decided I want to keep my staff and the people growing. It’s more exciting for them and they do a better job. For example, a few years ago we had a broken stove across the street at Alma Nove. And I had to explain to the guy fixing it that my chefs are going to be thinking about the stove—not thinking about their job or the food they’re putting out, because they’re stressed about the stove. I said, “Happy cooks make happy food.” And happy food tastes better. It really does. Some restaurants that go through the motions—there’s no passion, no love, no excitement.


PLUS: Get to know the Wahlberg family with this cast guide.


Between the two restaurants, is there one where you spend more time than the other?

It depends on the day, the needs, and the situation. I spend quite a bit of time at Alma Nove because that’s where I cook all the time. And then I come over here because I want my cooks and my managers to be able to develop themselves. I’ve been very fortunate to surround myself with really good people. I’m fortunate that I get a little bit of latitude. And my attention span is very short, so I get to run back and forth all the time.

In terms of your show Wahlburgers, what is your role like in comparison to your brothers?

Well, [the viewers] are going to see what we do at the restaurant because that’s the most important thing. And Donnie and Mark are there, and they do their things. Donnie does a great job, and Mark’s unbelievable, too. They like to push my buttons. That’s the fun part. But it’s always been that way with us. They’re the youngest so that stuff used to go right downhill. We try not to take it too seriously with each other, and that’s the best part. Life’s too short. When we’re together, we want to make the best of it.

We can see from the Wahlburgers menu that you have a bit of an influence from family and friends here (between Mom’s Macaroni and Jenn’s chicken sandwich). What else would you say influences what’s on your menus?

I’m inspired by a lot of restaurants in this area. Anybody who’s in the business…restaurant owners, chefs, and front-of-house managers who have to put up with people like me on a regular basis. Anything like that. A lot of these dishes pay homage to my family and to me.

What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

The Smahlburger. And the tater tots. I love tater tots.

Is there a certain restaurant in the Boston area that you go to frequently?

It depends on what we’re doing and what we’re in the mood for. We are so fortunate for the quality of chefs here and there is no one place [in particular]. My family and I like to go to out-of-the-way, smaller places. But we don’t tell people because these places change. I love Sweet Cheeks [Q in the Fenway]. I love sushi, I love everything. And what this city has to offer is incredible. I was at this Jamaican restaurant over on Washington Street in Copley Square. I had never seen it before, but we were doing an event over there. So I was out looking for a Coke and we walked into this Jamaican restaurant. And they said they don’t have any, so I asked for a meat pie. But they said they didn’t have any meat, but they had chicken pies. Oh my god. Unbelievable! Finding those types of places is great. There are so many talented people in this city, and being so fortunate to work for them and to be exposed to them…I’m so blessed.

 

Paul Wahlberg’s new show Wahlburgers airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on A&E. (You can watch last night’s premiere on AETV.com.)

  • Sandra Bylaska

    I enjoyed the show but was very disappointed in your choice of assistants. As you know women in the restaurant business have a very hard time earning the (or any) respect let alone equal to a man in the same position. I have 25 years in the restaurant business, everything from short order cook, cocktail, fine dining, bartender, manager, general manager, yet had to get out of the business because instead of being respected and valued for my experience, I am just an invisible middle age woman that doesn’t fit anywhere unless my son owns the business and I help at the hostess station. Women are either “Flo”, gum chewing, pencil behind the ear, or young blondes without an ounce of experience who doesn’t know a screwdriver from what is the correct table order, but it’s ok, she is eye candy and maybe she will bend over again to pick something off the floor! That woman you hired declared she would be perfect for the job as your assistant, REALLY, what would that job be? Her experience was 1 year as a hostess, but it’s ok, she’s cute blonde and the camera loves her! She complained that she was in the office and you didn’t talk to her, what was she doing? Making a “build to”,? finishing up the food or liquor inventory? or maybe balancing the books? I was yelling at the TV when you gave her the job, I would love to know how high is her salary? No offense, I am sure she is a lovely person but qualified to be the assistant to the owner, head chef, of two totally different kinds of high profile restaurants who is also looking to expand and has trouble with delegation and letting go of control. I don’t think so! So what does he do? He hires a cute blonde with very little restaurant experience. All I can do is shake my head and wonder if it will ever change.
    Paul I was so very disappointed in you!

    • Nikki Cox

      I don’t understand the issue first we honestly do not know her qualifications we just know what was said on camera but regardless it is a family decision so how can you be disappointed in Paul its not your business so why does it matter to you???

  • Cathy Judd

    The show was GREAT. Its nice to see a family that cares so very much about each other. The mother seems to have done a GREAT job raising the boys. You don’t only see a lote of family love , but respect for each other.
    How do you become a part of this family? You have your choice a burger place or fine dinning. Both looks like a great place. Since I’m in NE the chances are slim I will ever be lucky enough to get there.Are the pies homemade? Do they ship there pies? Good luck! What am I saying? It seems like you have all the luck you’ll ever need or want. CJ from NE

  • Frances Wright

    I think Its a shame there are so many judge mental people out there that likes to trash others. I am just glad I am healthy and work at a facility where my patients appreciate me when I come in. Money is nice but its not everything. My greatest joy in my job is when I was away for a week at school. I came in to take care of a older lady and they gave me report and said she is very depressed be careful at what you say. I went in and talked to her and before I left I had her laughing. And her comment was were have you been all week I have been waiting on you. This made My day and then I knew I was at the right place. So its not about the money you make its if you enjoy what you do and make people happy.

  • Nikki Cox

    I love the show I love the depth of it, it is more than a show it is about family. Some people do not understand what is is like to be poor and to go from being in that lifestyle to fighting to improve your life and yourself….when Donnie was talking about the little cheese pizzas with the bologna and cheese..the block welfare cheese some of us know what he was talking about or even a fried bologna sandwich yes some of us understand that and we appreciated the struggle because it made us stronger and gave us something to strive for…It is a true blessing to see you guys as a family it is more personal…I love it….Nikki from NC

  • Delia Rodriguez

    I love the show, Donnie and Mark are great but you Paul are absolutely Awesome!!! Hoping one day to visit one or both restaurant…take care yourself you really do work hard…

  • Paulette Medema

    I love the show but can’t believe what a hard time the brothers give Chef Paul. They have no idea how hard what he does is or the stress he is under. I watched the show where Chef Paul finialy took a day off, (his birthday), and instead of staying and doing the job she was hired to do, his assistant left and took a spa day! What kind of help is that? Please Chef Paul, hire me, I grantee that I will always find some work to do, even if it is restocking something or washing floors!

  • Kathy Katsarelis

    I just watched the show for the first time. I absolutely love the show. It is nice to see a family who has values even though they have financial wealth. Family and all that entails seems to be at the crux of the Wahlbergs. I never thought I would watch another reality television show after the Kardashians and the Gosselins. The Wahlbergs are like the anti-Kardashians. I love their mom and Paul. Donnie and Mark are very big hearted. I cannot wait for the marathon of the season. I have my DVR ready to record.

  • Elaine & John Nepsha

    I’ve always said that you can’t get into another person’s head “because you’re not paying rent there”, you don’t live with them, and often times reality shows give way to some sensationalism for effect. Regardless, it’s a real “hoot” to watch as I and my husband do with the greatest regard for momma and her boys. At least it isn’t Juan Pablo from the bachelor which is a …………king of show. My husband and I go to Boston to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for his check-ups and I can’t wait to go up again so I can visit one of the Walberg’s restaurant. We had a burger at Cheers years ago and thought that was the best ever, however I’m sure that Paul’s beats Cheers any day. We wish you all continued success in the future, and if you can send cash for my comments so we can take a cruise that would be great-kigging! Elaine and John Nepsha, Sayre, PA.