Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival
Nov 18 & 19, 2022

Wahlburgers’ Chef Paul Wahlberg to Host 2 VIP Events Prior to Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

Wahlburgers’ Chef Paul Wahlberg to Host 2 VIP Events Prior to Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival




Dawn Baker, Festival Manager (616-447-2860 |
Dianna Stampfler, Festival Publicist (269-330-4228 |
Henri Boucher, Festival Producer (616-447-2860 |

Wahlburgers’ Chef Paul Wahlberg to Host 2 VIP Events Prior to Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival


(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich) — One of the new featured Small Plate restaurants at the 15th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (November 18 & 19 at DeVos Place) is Walhburgers (located at 10 Ionia Avenue NW inside the Residence Inn hotel in downtown Grand Rapids). The international chain is owned and operated by Chef Paul Wahlberg, star of the reality A&E TV series Wahlburgers which aired for 10 seasons between January 2014 and July 2019.

Chef Paul will be making a special appearance in Grand Rapids on Thursday, November 17, hosting two VIP pre-Festival events.*

During the afternoon, Chef Paul will host a group of students from Kitchen Sage at Wahlburgers where he’ll inspire these budding chefs by sharing his story and tricks of the trade, while working side-by-side with them to prepare meals. Encouraging at risk and underserved youth in the culinary arts is something that Chef Paul has been focused on for some time.

“I’m honored that Kitchen Sage was chosen for this event,” says Chef Karen Chaffee, who has served as director of Steepletown Neighborhood Services/Kitchen Sage since 2019 alongside Culinary Instructor Tanya Henry. “The city of Grand Rapids has some amazing non-profit organizations aimed at helping individuals in their communities to pursue their goals. It is very humbling to know Kitchen Sage is one that stood out to him [Chef Paul].”

Kitchen Sage was founded in 2014 by Chefs Tommy Fitzgerald and Justin Stermin to create opportunities for local youth to gain experience within the hospitality industry. Two years later, they partnered with Steepletown Neighborhood Services, a non-profit specializing in workforce development focused on helping displaced and youth in transition. The goal of Kitchen Stage is to teach these individuals skills that will allow them to obtain and maintain gainful employment.

Students at Kitchen Sage are provided valuable hands-on education by preparing between 300 and 900 nutritious scratch-based meals and snacks for Grand Rapids inner city preschoolers through a partnership with Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC), OtherWay Ministries and United Methodist Community House (UMCH).

From day one, training utilizes the methods of this meal production to teach the culinary participants “hard” skills such as knife cuts, cooking methods, food safety and sanitation while emphasizing the importance of “soft” skills like networking, team building and expectations of an employer. Once a participant completes the course work, they’re placed at a worksite. Kitchen Sage pays the participants an hourly wage up to 120 hours to work and learn from a local hospitality partner with the hopes of a job offer at the end of the internship.

Also during the summer months, participants aged 16 to 24 with cognitive and physical differences from Grand Rapids, Ionia and Belding can join Tanya Henry at Camp Kitchen Sage to learn basic kitchen etiquette, scratch cooking, fire safety along with visits to farms, local businesses and non-profits specializing in the food service industry.

“Half the battle of learning any new skill is believing in yourself and what you’re capable,” Chaffee says. “Of All of us have obstacles to overcome throughout our lives. This is an amazing opportunity for the students to gain self-confidence and make memories that will last them a lifetime. Chef Paul is a great example of holding on to your dreams and staying the course. A couple have even come in early to practice their knife skills so they are ‘on point’ when they prep with him.”

Chef Paul Wahlberg, one of nine siblings including celebrity brothers – actor Mark and musician/actor Donnie – spent his childhood in the family kitchen alongside his mother, Alma. His passion for cooking was influenced by the Sunday suppers he shared at home with family and friends. At age 16, he began working for a caterer and after graduating high school, spent time in several kitchens around Boston including The Charles Hotel, The Four Seasons Hotel and Bridgeman’s in Hull, MA, where he served as Executive Chef for nine years.

He then embarked on his first solo venture in 2010, opening Alma Nove – a waterfront Italian/Mediterranean restaurant in Hingham, MA, named after his mother and her nine (nove) children. That was followed closely by the first Wahlburgers across the street in 2011. Currently Wahlburgers operates more than 50 locations in 24 states – with just two Michigan locations (Grand Rapids and Detroit) and four countries (U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany, with New Zealand coming soon).

Due a prior annual commitment on the weekend before Thanksgiving, Chef Paul is unable to stay in Grand Rapids for the entire festival. For years, he and his organization – Alma Cars Foundation has packaged and distributed ingredients for thousands of Thanksgiving meals for local individuals and families in need through the South Shore YMCA in Massachusetts. Chef Paul grew up as a “Y Kid” and has been a longtime supporter of the organization. The project has become even more important to him now, after his mother passed away in April 2021.

In addition to Wahlburgers, 14 other local restaurants are serving up globally inspired Small Plate samples at the Festival, making for a mouth-watering progressive evening. In The Vineyard (Steelcase Ballroom) you’ll find: Bay Pointe Bar & Grille, Big O’ Smoke House, Curry Kitchen, Jose & Justin’s Pig Gig, Knoop, MDRD, The Melting Pot, Monsoon and Shesco Mediterranean Grill; Beer City Station (Hall C) will feature Wahlburgers, One.Twenty.Three, Slows Bar-B-Q, Tacos El Cunado and Tamales Mary. One Bourbon will be set up in the new Barrel Room (Welsh Lobby) and additional offerings will be available in the RendezBREW area along the riverside of the Grand Gallery, including coffees, cordials and desserts.

All Festival sales are online – Festival admission, tasting tickets (sponsored by Studio C), Tasting Sessions & Pairings – at or via the Official Festival App (GR Wine Festival) available through Google Play or iTunes as part of the new Digital Box Office (meaning no paper ticket box office on site).

ShowSpan and Festival Co-Producer, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, look forward to presenting this annual culinary celebration to showcase the full menu of food and beverage education and entertainment that West Michigan has come to expect.

The 15th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is open 4-10pm on Friday, November 18 and 2-10pm on Saturday, November 19.

Festival Quick Links


* Media interested in covering either of these special events with Chef Paul Wahlberg should contact Festival Publicist Dianna Stampfler at or 269-330-4228.



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