A Royal Life In Raleigh: Chef Walter
A celebrated chef creates more than just great food. He encourages a family atmosphere and a strong community.
Chef Walter Royal is getting ready for a 500-person banquet. He also has to prepare for the nightly business of managing the acclaimed culinary offerings of the Angus Barn in Raleigh. You might think he'd be stressing. But not Walter.
He savors the sweet and the simple. Even with the high stakes job of being the executive chef at a destination restaurant, he appreciates that it's not about the fame or the ego that could be carried by an award-winning culinary pro. It's the simple things that matter, such as family, loving your job, and being there for people.
All those elements come together for Walter, who sees the Angus Barn management and staff as family. He'd rather stay there than take his reputation and strike out on his own. He truly values feeding people--with food, yes, but also with emotional support and knowledge.
Down to Earth
Walter smiles a lot. "We have to be happy," he says, "because the happier we are, the better example we set--especially when we're in the public eye."
That attitude has won the respect of a growing army of admirers even among foodies accustomed to dealing with high-powered talents. One Southern Living interviewer, for instance, remembers being impressed with how easy Walter was to talk to.
"I expected to meet this really self-important man who was too busy to take time out of his schedule because he was in charge of this major empire," says former Senior Writer Andria Scott Hurst. "But here came this big teddy bear kind of guy--so sweet, so charming, and funny."
But how do the folks who work with him every day feel about the chef? "Walter is very creative and a very good leader and teacher," says chef Betty Shugart, the kitchen manager who's been with the Angus Barn for 44 years. "All the employees are just crazy about him."
An Award-Winning Chef
In 1997 the Restaurant Guild International declared Walter the Five Star Chef of the Year, making him the first African American to earn that distinction. He's been one of James Beard's Rising Stars, one of the Top Five Chefs in the Southeast, the Top Black Chef in America, and the Best Chef in the Triangle.