Chef Profile: Mike Wallace

Originally published May 2007 by 'Zalea Magazine - Mobile, AL

On November 1, 2006 Point Clear’s Marriott Grand Resort, Golf Club and Spa officially reopened after an impromptu remodeling courtesy of Katrina. Part of the renovation was the hiring of a new chef. The culinary services are now under the leadership of one of the Gulf Coast’s most accomplished chefs, Mike Wallace. Wallace has reshaped the menus at the historic resort with his New American cuisine. With the new culinary direction comes a renewed dedication to quality, food preparation and presentation.

This attention to detail has not been lost on visitors to the Grand. Wallace has been the object of columnists from Birmingham, New Orleans, San Francisco, and of course Mobile. Innovations like a monthly cooking class and a Chef’s Garden that provides the freshest possible herbs, produce, and even edible flowers play a large part in the interest in Chef Mike’s concepts. His commitment to local ingredients and flavors is especially impressive considering that he is not from the South.

Born in Northridge, California, Wallace lost both parents at a young age. Upon turning 18 he joined the armed services were he excelled in the US Army’s cooking school graduating at the top of his class. He then applied the $25,000 earned while serving his country towards attending the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. After graduating the CIA with the title of "most outstanding student" he embarked on a six-month "externship" at New York City’s legendary Waldorf Astoria.

Wallace continued his hands-on training at the finest restaurants in Switzerland, specifically Geneva. After rounding out his expertise by working in the demanding kitchens of Europe he returned to the states taking the position of Sous Chef at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. That was followed by stints as Executive Sous Chef at the Dana Point Resort (Orange County, CA), Executive Chef of the Cascade Restaurant at the Opryland Hotel (Nashville, TN), and Executive Chef at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort (Hilton Head Island, SC).

A new era for the culinary reputation of the entire area began a few years ago with the naming of Tom Houle as executive chef for Namen’s Catering while the Food Network’s Bobby Flay visited and profiled Justine’s at the Pillar’s chef/owner Matt Ship. The arrival of a world class chef such as Mike Wallace brings even more prestige to the Gulf Coast’s gastronomic standing. In fact the young chef’s influence has helped take the Grand from mother nature’s casualty to the No. 1 ranking for guest satisfaction among all 343 Marriott’s in America.

Adding Wallace to a culinary team that already included Grand veterans Executive Chef Kyle Huxen, Executive Sous Chef Michelle Davidson, Restaurant Chef Bob Young, and Banquet Chef Gerald Lawson has been an inspiration. The fact that they could entice such an exceptional culinarian is a testament to Marriott’s dedication to returning the Grand to pre-hurricane status as one of the world’s top resort destinations. It also serves as authentication that the Mobile Bay area is fast becoming a hot bed for exciting cuisine.

The Dining Room is open for breakfast (6:30am-10:30am) and lunch (11:45am-2:00pm) as well as Sunday Brunch (11:45am-2:00pm). The attire is resort casual and children are welcome. The Grand Dining Room is open for dinner only (6:00pm-9:30pm) and resort attire is required. It is aimed at romantic dinners with great wines and live piano. Reservations are recommended. The Saltwater Grill overlooks Mobile Bay and offers dinner (5:30pm-9:30pm) focusing on fresh local seafood. The Grill is a more upbeat dining experience where children are welcome. Resort attire is required.

Chef Mike oversees all aspects of food preparation on the 500 acre campus which includes the three world-class restaurants and a handful of bars, lounges, and coffee shops. He also personally conducts the monthly cooking classes held every third Saturday of each month which are open to hotel guests, Lakewood members and the public. The cost is just $25. To book yourself in to one of the popular hands-on classes or for restaurant reservations call (251) 928-9201.
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