Carmel Magazine

Spring/Summer 2020

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Page 133 of 155

132 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 2 0 I n many ways, Ted Walter is the poster boy for pandemics. When health officials declared a global crisis earlier this year, the chef and longtime co-owner (with his wife Cindy) of Passionfish in Pacific Grove had already been sheltering in place at his Carmel Valley home. Walter had spent many months tethered to an oxygen tank. Unable to cook, unable to walk, unable to breathe without intervention, the 60-year- old waited at home for a phone call. He needed a lung transplant, and someone else had to die for that to happen. Diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in September of 2015, Walter's lungs had hardened for unknown reasons. In June of 2019 a man known only as Tyler gave Walter the gift of life—two perfectly pink, porous lungs. Such a procedure is never without complications, howev- er. In February, Walter's white blood cell count plummeted, and a virus took hold. He survived against all odds. So, he certainly wasn't going to tempt fate by exposing himself to the Coronavirus. Even a small scratch on his foot couldn't be ignored, a subse- quent infection landing him in the hospital. "I had to change 60 years of the way I behave and think," he says. "I've had setbacks, and each one is a learning moment that didn't kill me." The biggest change has been his lack of involvement in Passionfish, the sustainable restaurant the couple opened 23 years ago. "Before surgery, I didn't have the energy to do anything," says Walter. "Not being at Passionfish was very frustrating." The Coronavirus scare extended his hiatus. "It's a recipe for disaster for the transplant patient who has little to no immune system," says Walter. Through it all he has gained great strength—both physical and emotion- al. And resolve. Finally, he can breathe easy, and see the future clearly. Q: As someone who loves food, do you have any diet restrictions? A: I've always eaten whatever I wanted. Now, no more Akaoni (sushi restaurant in Carmel). No grapefruit or pomegranate, my two favorite juices. No blue cheese. No charcuterie. No raw or rare meats. Q: What's your favorite childhood food memory? A: A day at my grandmoth- er's house, where she baked bread, roasted fresh chiles, made empanadas. I miss those fresh, spicy salsas. Q: What was your first culi- nary job? A: Dishwasher at Perry Boys Smorgie in Salinas in high school. I quickly moved on to Harvest Queen at the bowling alley on Main Street. Q: Who most influenced you to become a chef? A: My parents would take me to nice restaurants on occasions, when they felt flush. On my 21st birthday, we went to Le Petit Pier in Tahoe. I'd never tasted anything like that before. I was hooked. Q: If you hadn't followed a culinary path, where would you have ended up? A: I've been passionate about food since I was 12, and I pretty much Cooking Up A Passionate Life Chef Ted Walter on Sustainability, Food and Joy B Y L A R R Y H A R L A N D 'Discovering incredible wines together, tasting the difference in each bite—with wine, without wine. All of these things, for me, create a perfect meal.'

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