City Weekend gets an exclusive interview with Hollywood celebrity and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg on the opening of American burger chain Wahlburgers. Wahlburgers is run by the Wahlberg family and will be expanding to Asia, starting with its first three locations in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Wuhan. We ask Mark Wahlberg about his burger likes and dislikes and what we should expect from Wahlburgers in China.
City Weekend: Which came first, the punny name or the idea to open a burger restaurant?
Mark Wahlberg: The idea of a burgers restaurant was first. Growing up, we all loved to eat burgers, so it made sense to leverage Paul’s expertise to open a burger concept. Of course, once that was decided, the name Wahlburgers was a natural.
CW: What has been the biggest challenge to get started in Shanghai?
MW: We are early in the process, so I don’t think we’ve yet faced what will be our biggest challenge in opening in Shanghai. It will of course be the start of building our brand in one of the world’s largest markets, and in a city with very high standards for food. So, I’m sure delivering a fantastic experience that does credit to both our brand and Shanghai will be a challenge, but we are up for the challenge.
CW: How much can we expect the menu in China to differ from what Wahlburger serves in the States?
MW: Our partners and we agree that, at its core, what we need to deliver is a Wahlburgers experience built around our core products. Having said that, of course we need to adapt the menu to satisfy local tastes. That balance will be developed in conjunction with David Laris, Wahlburgers Asia Pacific’s very talented concept leader who will team with Paul on adapting Wahlburgers for China.
CW: Wahlburgers serves “a spin on Wahlberg family favorites”. What does your mother think of the food? Did you have to get her approval on the final product?
MW: Alma loves the food! She even made her own contribution to the menu with Alma’s macaroni salad.
CW: Tell us a little bit about it was like eating in the Wahlberg household growing up.
MW: My mom and my dad always made sure that every meal was special. We always ate together.
Bad Boy images are a thing of the past for the famous family; family is the name of the game for the Wahlbergs. A&E’s hit show Wahlburgers showcases the contagiously funny, heartwarming, Wahlberg family and their venture to bring family values to the forefront through their national franchise:Wahlburgers.
As many viewers and would assume the Wahlbergs 13 locations are in the cities you would expect a celebrity owned chain of restaurants would be: Boston, New York, Orlando, Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, Myrtle Beach as well as the obvious original Hingham, Massachusetts location, the hometown of the Wahlbergs.
And on January 10, 2017 the restaurant announced its location in Huntsville, Alabama at CityCentre.
As a Huntsvillian myself, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the news of such of Big Name chain opening at CityCentre. But the question lingered, “Why Huntsville?”
Most entrepreneurs would assume the first Southeast location for a big name chain of restaurants would be Atlanta, Nashville, or even Birmingham.
And if their desire was specifically to be in Alabama, wouldn’t Birmingham be the logical choice? It’s the largest city in the state.
So why Huntsville?
Just take a look at the numbers. Huntsville has a higher incomer per capita than any of theses cities, sustaining the $13-$14 price tag on a Wahlburger’s meal that includes a burger, soda, fries. And while it may seem appealing for a business to enter one of the fastest growing economies such as Nashville or Atlanta, it is important to enter a market that has controllable and sustainable growth, which Huntsville provides.
With operating expenses that are a staggering 32 percent less than the national average and rents that are 25 percent less per square-foot than the national average, the barrier to enter is significantly less than other Southeast metropolitan arenas.
Jordan Brand’s newest silhouette, the Formula 23, serves as the base sneaker for Mark Wahlberg’s first Air Jordan collab which he has dedicated to his family’s restaurant chain and A&E show “Wahlburgers.”
Marky Mark first alluded to the Jordan collab during an episode of Wahlburgers when the actor/producer/businessman/sneaker collector paid a visit to Nike’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters to work on the upcoming model with a team of designers and Nike employees.
The special edition Wahlburgers x Jordan Formula 23 sneaker, a shoe that draws on inspiration from the Air Jordan 10 and 11, will likely be an exclusive pair for promotional purposes, therefore it’s unlikely they’ll be releasing in stores.
Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Mark Wahlberg, alongside brothers Donnie and Paul simultaneously brought their burger concept, Wahlburgers, to Hollywood this week andannounced that their chain it will expand to Asia in 2017 through a joint venture with Cachet Hospitality Group (CHG). The first three restaurants are slated to open in Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Shanghai, China.
“We’re excited about this wonderful opportunity to grow in Asia,” said Wahlburgers CEO Rick Vanzura. “Having a savvy, financially strong partner is essential and we have a great partner in the Cachet Hospitality Group, which will bring an unprecedented level of service and strength to the Wahlburgers brand. Cachet is dedicated to family, community and, of course, bringing diverse groups of people together through great food – the very same values that drive Wahlburgers. Thanks to Cachet, we already have our first confirmed restaurant projects outside of North America, and we look forward to making history together.”
The Cachet Hospitality Group (CHG), an international hospitality branding and management company based in Hong Kong, is well known in the region for excellence and a growing focus on social responsibility. According to CEO Alexander Mirza, “This is an excellent time to enter the Asia market, especially China, where dramatic growth in US-style destination malls with increasing space committed to restaurants as mall owners see both traffic and income rise dramatically….This combines perfectly with the explosive popularity of international restaurant brands in China’s malls and airports, opening the door to tremendous opportunity for Wahlburgers and our Asia Pacific joint venture.”
Based on the lure of Wahlburgers, CHG has signed major agreements with developers who have committed to including Wahlburgers restaurants in their projects. World Packaging Center, an existing CHG developer, agreed to sign the first restaurant in Hangzhou. Shanghai-based naked Hub has agreed to open 20 Wahlburgers in their office building complexes throughout Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thailand’s Big Ho Corporation will open 20 Wahlburgers in its franchise location of Big C Supercenter stores throughout northern Thailand.
Chef Paul Wahlberg has a pretty direct answer when asked whether he’s become comfortable with his celebrity as the star of Wahlburgers, A&E’s reality show series about the eponymous fast-casual burger restaurants he owns with his partner-brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. Last week Wahlburgers celebrated its fifth anniversary, and the Emmy-nominated TV series launches its latest season on November 16. But even after years of practice, and a lifetime watching his entertainment biz bros handle Hollywood, it’s still a little hard for Paul Wahlberg to digest the celeb-chef thing. He doesn’t love doing the publicity circuit; during an interview at Alma Nove, his upscale Italian restaurant across the street from the original Wahlburgers, the chef sometimes sits on his hands to avoid moving about the room. (“I get fidgety!” he chuckles.) He’s as press shy as his famous brothers are limelight-loving, and he laughs at the irony that, just a few days prior, his brother Donnie broke a Guinness World Record for — wait for it! — taking selfies on a New Kids on the Block cruise.
“I’m still not comfortable in that world, though I count my blessings from it,” says Wahlberg of the fame machine. “Still, if I get caught up in the celebrity part, I’m not doing my job.”
His job, he says, is simply to cook. That’s where he feels at home, even if the demands of a TV show and booming burger chain require other kinds of attention. Since opening the first Wahlburgers location in Hingham in 2011, the brand has expanded to about a dozen locations around the country — from Vegas to Orlando — with dozens more international outposts under agreement with franchisees. And the television show, which follows the comic travails of the Wahlberg clan as they run the family business, has garnered a loyal following that surprises even the chef. He’s had fans drive hours just to get a patty melt and a boozy frappe, a dedication that, frankly, makes him a bit self-conscious. “I had one couple drive here nonstop from Nova Scotia. I couldn’t do enough for them,” recalls Wahlberg of two exceptionally devout diners. (That’s an 11-hour drive, if you’re curious.) Of course, all those TV-bred expectations are a double-edged sword. “You have people who think it’s the best thing ever. Then you have the people who say, ‘it doesn’t live up to they hype.’ But it’s not meant to be hyped. That’s not what I’m trying to achieve.”
Whatever the show suggests, the chef says he just wants to show folks a good time at Wahlburgers, whether by doling out tried-and-true burgers (topped with fixings like “government cheese,” a nod to hardscrabble times growing up in Dorchester) or seasonal variations like the just-launched fiesta burger (pictured above), a half-pound patty made with Southern spice mix and topped with jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli and sweet pepper and smoked onion salsa. The chain has also branched out to non-burger items like smoked mozzarella mac-n-cheese with bacon and open-faced Sloppy Joe sandwiches slathered in cheese sauce.
For Paul Wahlberg, the chef in charge of the surging burger chain Wahlburgers, the hardest part of working with his famous bros, actor and New Kid on the Block Donnie and Hollywood heavy Mark Wahlberg, is forgetting all those arguments about the flat bicycle tire.
“You just try not to revert back to when you were 12 years old and were like, ‘You took my bike and got a flat tire!’ Those kinds of things,” Wahlberg told the Track. “Even though it’s been the same way since you were 12, you can’t go there.”
Despite the bike situation, Wahlberg — who yesterday celebrated the fifth anniversary of the very first Wahlburgers in Hingham — loves working with his brothers, who, he said, have been nothing but supportive.
So who is the toughest member of the family to work with? That would be mom Alma, Paul said.
“My mother wants to be the boss,” he laughed. “Because she is the boss.”
In any event, Wahlberg and Wahlburgers have come a long way since the first burger joint opened back in 2011 in the Hingham Shipyard. For one thing, there are now 11 Wahlburgers spread around the country, including three in Massachusetts — the original in Hingham, one around the corner from Fenway Park and one in Lynnfield. The family hopes eventually to have 30 across the country.
And then there’s the TV show.
“Wahlburgers,” starring Paul, Mark, Donnie, Alma and the rest of their family and wacky Entourage, will launch season seven on Nov. 16 with more bickering about who is Alma’s favorite son, more expansion and more Johnny Drama.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Wahlburgers Downtown Orlando has ended its fundraiser and will donate $50,403 to the #OneOrlando Fund. The restaurant raised $25,402 in t-shirt sales, and Donnie Wahlberg personally contributed an additional $25,000. A check presentation ceremony with the mayor and city officials is planned, and will be held at a future date pending Donnie Wahlberg’s schedule.
Donnie Wahlberg says, “I’m so grateful to the many generous guests of #Wahlburgers who purchased #OrlandoStrong t-shirts to help the victims still struggling in the wake of the horrible Pulse tragedy. Your generosity has inspired me so much that I am personally donating an additional $25,000 raising the total sum to the victims and their families to $50,000.”
“As a society, we often move on very quickly from such tragedies while the victims and their loved ones, most of whom will be affected forever, continue on the long and painful road to recovery and healing. Hopefully this donation will assist in that healing, and also serve as a reminder that there are still many victims struggling to rebuild their lives who need our continued financial and emotional support,” concludes Wahlberg.
“My family has a long history in this community, and our thoughts and prayers are forever with the victims and their families,” says Franchisee Gina Buell. “We want to personally thank our guests who purchased the t-shirts, our community for coming out in such strength, as well as our Wahlburgers family for their support. The logo that was designed for the #OrlandoStrong Wahlburgers t-shirt shows the peace, loveand strength between Boston and Orlando, two cities affected by senseless tragedies,” concludes Buell.
Mark Wahlberg loves for working with director Peter Berg. And Berg loves Wahlburgers (but more on that later). The duo have worked together on “Lone Survivor” and the new “Deep Horizon,” the true story of the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010, which killed 11 people and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Wahlberg plays chief engineer technician Mike Williams, the last survivor to make it off the Deepwater Horizon rig. The 45-year-old actor explains the appeal of true stories and how his relationship with Berg blossomed over burgers.
You’ve worked on three films with Peter Berg. You’re friends now, right?
Well, he is from New York and I’m from Boston, so that’s a big problem. [Laughs]
How did this collaboration come about?
It’s one of those stories where we have the same agent and he introduced us. In fact, he was trying to get us together for some time. But for one reason or another, we resisted. But when we finally got together for “Survivor,” I was like ‘I could make 20 movies with this man.’ We motivate each other. We support each other. He focuses on the story and has a mindset to see the whole picture, rather than deal with his own agenda, which is very rare.
While on the subject of your friendship with Peter Berg, tell us what a guy from Boston and a guy from New York have in common when it comes to food?
[Laughs] Look, I took him to all the great restaurants in Boston. But he keeps saying that Wahlburgers burgers were the best. He tried the turkey, classic and fish. He ate them all; he could not stop.
What is your favorite dish?
Oh God, you’re asking someone who craves everything all the time. I’ve been eating very healthy. For my birthday my wife hosted a dinner at home and brought the chef of my favorite Italian restaurant, but I could not eat everything that I wanted. The problem is that I gained a lot of weight for “Deep Horizon” and “Patriots Day.” Then I saw Michael Bay, the producer for “Transformers” and he said, “Friend, what’s going on here?” So I had to do the 10-week training program in three.
While his brothers Mark and Donnie are in the entertainment industry, the only showbiz Paul really partakes in is his restaurant’s reality TV show Wahlburgers. Food has always been to main focus in Paul’s life.
While we inhaled a few items from the Wahlburgers’ TIFF special menu that features housemade Lobster Poutine, sweet potato tots, and popcorn jalepeno shrimp, we also had a chance to catch up with Chef Paul to chat about Toronto and TIFF.
So, why did you open the first restaurant outside of Massachusetts in Toronto?
Paul: I’ve been to Toronto a bunch a times so I know the city well. I love the city life and the energy here. Walking around it’s amazing. Everyone is so nice here. For us, you know Mark and Donnie film here so much and we have so many connections here in Toronto it just made sense for us. They have a huge fan base here in the city.
Do people recognize you too?
Paul: People are nice here and they don’t really bug me. Once in a while they recognize me and I can hear them whispering. Sometimes I hear “Oh look, it’s Donnie!” which is totally fine. I got chased out of a store once with someone yelling Donnie Wahlberg! Donnie Wahlberg! The funniest is when people come up to me and complain about my brothers. They don’t like a movie they’re in or something and I guess they think I’ll go back and discuss that with them. But what’s really funny is when people come up and tell me that they love my mother. So I tell my mom that people love her and that they say hello. But then she’ll ask me who they were.
Are you TIFFing while you’re here?
Paul: (laughs) I’ve been here a few times around TIFF and I like to walk around the area and along King Street and Spadina. I love all the pop-up places but it’s been a busy time for me here at the restaurant. I did walk over to get a porchetta sandwich down on King Street near here. It was pretty amazing. The crackling, the bread, it’s the perfect sandwich. Mark is here for TIFF. It’s a beautiful time of year to be here. (Mark is in town for the premiere of his film Deepwater Horizon)
When it comes to the pinnacle of football, there’s the Super Bowl, the Rose Bowl and now the Wahlbowl. Yes, the Wahlbowl.
Mark Wahlberg was in town last weekend to show the Patriots a screening of his new movie, but as it turns out, that wasn’t the only Foxborough-based filming he had going on. The whole Wahlberg clan hit the field at Gillette Stadium in the season finale of “Wahlburgers,” which aired Wednesday on A&E.
In the episode, Mark, his brothers, and their families played a game of touch football at the Patriots practice facility, the Empower Field House. The teams were split up by Mark’s children, Brendan and Mikey, and there were even some Patriot cameos.
Broadcaster and former quarterback Scott Zolak did what he does best and called play-by-play for the game, alongside the Wahlberg matriarch Alma. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also stopped by to watch the game and even stepped up big time for the team anchored by Bob Wahlberg.
“It was a little trick play I pulled out of the bag, and he caught it,” Bob said.
Robert tied the game with his touchdown, even though he “lost it in the lights” for a few seconds.
With Robert as a spectator for most of the Wahlbowl, Paul Wahlberg felt the pressure.
“I don’t know if he’s looking at future picks,” he said. “I don’t know what the deal is.”
Mark settled in as quarterback for his team, launching left-handed passes downfield for his nephew, Brandon, and at least one Wahlberg made an impression on Robert.
“You’ve got a good arm, tight spiral,” Robert told Mark. “I’m going to tell Tommy [Brady] he’s got to be careful.”
“Brendan’s Bad Boys” ultimately defeated “Mikey’s Ducks, but both teams were able to bolster their highlight reels and get some reps. And now the Wahlbergs need only wait until the 2017 NFL Draft to see if their hard work on the practice field paid off. [patriots.com]
Home – Wahlburgers – Wahlbowl (Season6, Episode 8)
Wahlberg is in Detroit filming “Transformers 5,” and while filming ran long Tuesday, he was less than an hour late for his scheduled 7 p.m. red carpet appearance.
“I get out of work when Michael Bay says I get out of work,” he joked.
“Detroit reminds me very much of Boston, it’s a great sports town,” he added, saying he’d move to Detroit if his wife wanted to. “We’re pushing to get more incentives here so we can make more films. We’re going to open up more restaurants, so I’ll be here quite often.”
Fans lined Monroe, hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor.
“We’re big fans,” said Angela Miller, who came to Greektown at 9 a.m. from Brighton with her friend Heather Ferrell of Belleville. “We’ve been following Mark and Donnie for a long time, and we got to meet Paul earlier today. We thought it was opening today so we came down.”
Emily Jilg, 27, of Novi cut her family vacation short by one to be in Detroit on Wednesday. She flew out of Orlando at 4 a.m., arriving on Monroe with her friend Linda Wilson, also of Novi, around 1 p.m.
“I would like to meet him and get a selfie,” she said. “I’ve been a fan for years and years and years.”
In December, Wahlberg announced in an interview with FOX 2’s Lee Thomas his plans to open a Wahlburgers in Greektown this summer in a Bedrock building. Later, it was revealed to be 569 Monroe, a 4,200-square-foot space next to the Red Smoke Barbeque restaurant.
In June, Wahlberg released a video statement saying the opening date would be “in four weeks,” estimating a late July opening.
Wahlburgers is owned by Mark, Paul and brother Donnie, who plays Detective Daniel Reagan on CBS’ “Blue Bloods” and is a member of boy band New Kids on the Block. Local partner Cutraro also owns Bella Piatti in Birmingham.
According to its website, Wahlburgers has locations in Toronto, New York and the brothers’ native state, Massachusetts. The Greektown restaurant will be first of six Wahlburgers planned for southeast Michigan. These locations are part of a nationwide expansion for the brand, which struck deals with various franchise groups to expand to a total of 118 restaurants.
Wahlburgers Detroit will serve lunch and dinner. The menu includes a full bar with a focus on burgers, sandwiches, sides, salads and gourmet sodas. [detroitnews.com]
Home – Wahlberg Family – Wahlburgers Downtown Detroit (Greektown)
The coming of a Wahlburgers to downtown Detroit (as one of six metro Detroit locations) is causing a lot of buzz in the city.
Over the weekend, Actor Mark Wahlberg, who is also part of the Wahlburgers chain and appears on the “Wahlburgers” television show, did a press appearance at their new Greektown location on Monroe that’s under construction.
He said that it’ll be four weeks until the Wahlburgers is ready to open, and he encouraged people to head downtown and hang out. The city is definitely abuzz with the Transformers 5 filming and the annual set of events that happens.
“We’re shooting the movie in town we’re going to be down here every night hanging out, come on down,” said Wahlberg. You can see him in the video above.
Mark Wahlberg owns the chain with his brothers Paul Wahlberg and Donnie Wahlberg, who is also an actor.
That would mean the opening is coming in last week of July, for you Wahlburger fans out there. It’s part of a greater plan to expand to 118 Wahlburger locations.
The new Wahlburgers in Greektown will be at 569 Monroe Street in downtown Detroit.
We’re thrilled to announce a very special one night only NKOTB headline show on the boardwalk by the seashore at the brand new Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, NY on August 4th.
We’re excited to spend the night with you taking it all the way back to Coney Island. As you know, it is a very special place for NKOTB history because we filmed our very first music video for “Please Don’t Go Girl” right there at the amusement park.
This is our last big announcement for 2016 events and we decided we wanted to extend the party and kick off the weekend of Mixtape Festival with a bang; Spending an evening with you partying by the seashore.
This will be a one of a kind, special show not to be missed. Come join us and maybe we’ll all go on a spin on the Wonder Wheel or maybe a little dip in the ocean.
We’re looking forward to making brand new memories with you in CONEY ISLAND.
Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk – Brooklyn, NY – Thursday August 4th
Tuesday June 7th – BLOCK NATION Pre-Sale (Starting @ 10am EDT)
Thursday June 9th – BLOCK NATION Pre-Sale Ends (10pm EDT)
Friday June 10th – Public On-Sale (Starting @ 10am EDT)