Checking Out the Local Food and Drink Scene
Jun 30, 2014
09:47 AMThe Chow Down
Meet Tom Welther, New Executive Chef of the Edgewater Hotel
PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM WELTHER
Chef Tom Welther will head up all culinary endeavors at the new Edgewater. He describes the cuisine at the hotel's flagship dining room as a cross between A Pig in a Fur Coat and Tornado Steakhouse.
There’s one thing about new Edgewater Hotel executive chef Tom Welther’s background that’s a bit out of the ordinary: He was at his last gig at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas for a total of not five, not ten, but thirty years.
’That’s very unusual in this business,” the affable Welther says.
But at a massive place like the Anatole, it makes a bit more sense. And for someone who’s going to oversee all of the various food operations at Madison’s newest and most buzzed-about hotel, it actually makes him uniquely suited for his new role.
The Anatole is known for its dining. The twenty-seven-story, 1,600-room hotel has eleven restaurants—a mixture of casual cafes, upscale bars and fine dining, plus provides room service and catering for conferences and events. That's a lot of kitchen jobs within one building. “It had a reputation for moving people up in the company,” Welther says.
He started there right out of school after graduating from the University of Texas–Austin and worked his way up—first as a sous chef and then banquet chef, rotating among the hotel’s many restaurants. He eventually became the executive chef of the entire hotel, leading a staff of 150 sous chefs and cooks in those eleven kitchens.
The redeveloped Edgewater, slated to open in late August, is smaller than the Anatole with 202 guest rooms, but will still feature several dining options—the Statehouse, the main dining room; the Boathouse, a casual burger and brat place out on the water’s edge; the Icehouse, another casual spot up on the public plaza; and the Café. Welther will oversee them all, but most of his focus, at least at first, will be on the Statehouse.
“It will be a beautiful restaurant, with china and crystal, but come as you are,” Welther says. He’s embracing the casualness of Madison already—it’s one of the big differences between here and Dallas he noticed right away when he moved to Wisconsin ten weeks ago.
The Statehouse dining room will have two hundred seats, plus sixty out on the patio and three private dining spaces. Welther says he and the Edgewater leadership want it to be a destination spot where community members, not just hotel guests, come to eat.
The food, he says, “will be somewhere between A Pig in a Fur Coat and Tornado Steakhouse.” Dry-age steaks, more interesting cuts of meat and some great seafood are all on his tentative menu. “The hard thing [at a hotel] is to make sure your customers can find whatever they want, whether that’s octopus with chorizo or a Caesar salad.”
He’s already begun to meet local purveyors, stopping by the farmers’ market and getting to know the Madison food community.
But it’s not just the food that brought Welther, who’s originally from the east coast, to Madison. When he heard about the opportunity with the Edgewater, it seemed like a chance to try something different and play a role in developing a new civic space.
“I’m not coming up here to be the chef of a two-hundred-room hotel,” he says. “It’s going to be a mainstay of this community.”
We still have to wait another two months for the Edgewater to open, and given Welther's experience, optimism and ambition for its culinary operations, there's now one more reason to get excited for its premiere.