Being in the kitchen with Chef Douglas Walls, you’ll notice his hearty meals match his personality. He’s got a boisterous laugh and is quick on his feet, despite ankle problems that keep him in pain.
“I really like feeding people!” Walls says with a big grin.
Given his appearance on the Food Network and growing popularity as a result, many might expect him to be a bit pretentious. But Walls is a no frills kind of guy.
His favorite food to cook: spaghetti and meatballs. His favorite meal to eat: chicken fingers and box mac and cheese.
Walls runs his kitchen at The Cove wearing Converse sneakers, typically keeps some scruff on his face, and treats his staff like family.
Though he was born in Charleston, West Virginia, Walls has lived most of his life in Asheville, North Carolina. Growing up working on a farm and having family style meals gave him an appreciation for good food.
“My mom always cooked from scratch. Monday through Friday, she had a menu planned for the family,” he said.
Rising to the Top
Walls now serves as executive chef at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville. The picturesque mountain retreat founded by Billy Graham serves as a hub for spiritual renewal and conferences, as well as seminars for pastors, military members, spouses and parents. Plan your visit to The Cove.
“This kitchen has changed me,” Walls said. “The Cove has grown me into a manager, a leader, a chef.”
Walls started at The Cove as a sous chef in 2011. He actually worked there 18 years prior while in culinary school, helping prep the kitchen and sometimes carving meats at events.
“That’s when I found the love of culinary. I’d always walk by this office and say, ‘I want to become the executive chef here one day.’”
Now, he’s just that. But the journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Walls admits he was a troubled kid who dropped out of school and cost his parents “tons of money” in damages, rehab and failed counseling. “I was a true rebel,” he said.
But one Mother’s Day in his twenties, Walls went to his mom, who was a Christian counselor, and told her he wanted to change.
“I came to the realization of God being at work, and it was time for me to come to Him,” Walls explained.
He knew that was a “God moment,” but life didn’t instantly get perfect.
‘I Never Quit on Life’
Walls went on to get married, but it ended after four years.
“The day that she walked out of the house to be with another man was the day I was supposed to start this job,” he said, referring to starting at The Cove.
“Nobody knows what’s going on. I start this job, and I have to pretend that I’m happy. I wasn’t going to come through the door, ‘Hi, my wife just left me!’” he recalled.
That week, Walls worked under beloved Chef Jean-Claude Mille.
Mille, who passed away in September 2015, later left The Cove and entrusted Walls to run everything.
“That man taught me how to make a perfect sauce in three days,” he said. Try some of Chef Walls’ recipes.
But a short time later, Walls would be dealt another blow: a broken ankle.
“Two weeks into this job, two weeks into my separation … I’m down for the count—a single man, with a house to take care of and no paychecks coming in.
“That was the craziest moment of my life,” he said. “I was screaming in my bedroom. I was so angry. I didn’t know what to do. I was yelling at God asking, ‘What in the world did you do this to me for?’”
But as Walls put it, he “kept on trucking.”
“I never quit on life.”
Walls has since remarried and says, with his wife Jamie he’s the happiest he’s ever been. Now a father of two and taking media requests left and right—he sees his story was preparing him for a bigger stage.
Addicted and Ashamed
Walls especially has a heart for reaching men.
“I want to wake men up. I want to wake fathers up. Those who are living in a fantasy world—gaming, porn, just the laziness of men. It’s bad. It’s a disease,” he said.
Walls battled pornography addiction for 20 years, but has never openly talked about it until now.
“I know it’s rampant right now in this country. I mean, it’s [available] right here,” he said picking up his cell phone. “It’s a perverted world. It’s anywhere and everywhere.
“People are addicted and ashamed to tell anybody,” Walls continued, admitting that the first person he ever told was Jamie.
“I was sick of it. It was like a cancer,” he said. “I prayed to God, ‘I don’t like this [but] I don’t know how to get out of this … I’ve got to break this disgusting addiction.’” Take the first step to conquer addiction today.
Because God has faithfully given him strength to overcome pornography, Walls feels it’s now time to use his voice to make a difference.
A Hope to Do More
Even before appearing on the Food Network this year, Walls has had opportunities to leave The Cove for more glamorous offers.
He’s already gotten calls about returning to Hollywood, but is careful about which gigs he’ll pick up.
“I don’t want that lifestyle,” he said. “I don’t want another failed marriage. I don’t want to lose my kids over a paycheck.
“You should stay where your roots have been planted. Stay where you’re from. I don’t want to go anywhere else. It’s not worth it,” he added.
From here, Walls hopes to help fund projects his parents are working on for single mothers through the Mustard Seed Project. The Cove also donates its leftovers to the Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth & Families. Walls plans to help them in a greater way as well.
“It’s been a growing process,” he said. “I never knew [life] would evolve to where it is now, but deep inside I don’t want this for Doug,” Walls said.
“God’s the No. 1 person to have on your side. If He can create a universe, He can surely take care of somebody,” Walls said. “Through all this, He’s taught me to trust Him.”
Chef Walls wanted to include a special thanks to his staff: sous chefs Hallie Saunders, Stewart Inman and Jennifer Chaiken, and pastry chef Natalie Hastings.