Like everyone, especially those in the hospitality industry, Miami chef Josh Wahler’s professional life was upended in March with the arrival of COVID-19 and the economic impact that ensued.
With a busy consulting career disappearing practically overnight, the single father to two young boys was left to plan his next move. Far more than a temporary pivot, however, he decided to build on an idea that would be relevant both during — and after — the pandemic's requirement for social distancing.
Wahler has worked in a number of celebrated kitchens, from New York's Gramercy Tavern to Miami's Spice Market, Fi'lia, and Estiatorio Milos. His most lauded employ took place at Nobu, where he rose in rank from sous chef to executive chef, opening restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles before returning to Miami. More than 20 years' industry experience also provided the sorts of connections that allow one to source only the best ingredients.
Now he can help home-based chefs access that trove of ideal items.
"I've always had a passion for amazing products. For me, it began with sourcing the best ingredients, combining them with the best technique, all while learning from the best chefs," Wahler tells New Times
"Today, Wahler & Sons
is a culmination of all my time in the industry, made available to the public. I've worked with only the best of the best, and now anyone in South Florida can, too."
Named in honor of his two youngsters, Wahler & Sons Quality Foods
has become the chef’s new vocation and passion. What began as a way to help friends and family source quality meats and seafood for home cooking has grown into a full-time business in a few short months.
“When we went into lockdown back in March, it became clear to me as a dad, at home with two boys that I was cooking three meals a day for, that there was a need: People [are] seeking amazing and affordable ingredients for their home-cooked creations," Wahler explains. "As a chef, I was spoiled. I was used to having access to the most fresh, delicious meats, fish, and poultry. So, with the restaurants closed and no one eating out, and my usual vendors barely selling anything, the idea for Wahler & Sons was born."
The business began as a side hustle, as Wahler put together a short list of meat, poultry, and fish to source for a handful of friends, working with many of the same vendors and purveyors he worked with in his restaurant days. The list kept growing — Wagyu burgers for a fraction of retail, same with heritage pork loin and antibiotic-free, free-range chicken.
"That really showed me that there was a place for these products in the consumer marketplace, not just for chefs," says Wahler.
By the end of July, Wahler had honed his delivery model and launched an online store
. Today, customers from South Miami to Boynton Beach can order from a wide array of products sold à la carte or in sample or gift sets. Never frozen, each order is cut and hand-packaged to specification just hours before pickup and delivery.
Products and prices vary. Four-packs of angus beef burgers ground to order ($20), for example. Or a ten-ounce Wahler Wagyu steak cut to Wahler's personal specifications ($40). The store also offers handmade spice blends, marinades, and sauces. For the holidays, Wahler is offering a $150 gift box that contains, among other restaurant-grade products, Australian rack of lamb and angus bone-in cowboy rib eyes.
Orders can be placed anytime, but must be in by Tuesday at 5 p.m. to guarantee home delivery by end of day Friday that week. In Miami, delivery is free with a purchase of $100 (there's a $10 delivery fee otherwise). In Broward and Palm Beach counties, delivery is free with orders of $150 (with a $20 bump otherwise).
But that's not all you get when you buy from Wahler.
With every purchase, customers are invited to meet virtually with him for a free cooking tutorial or consultation — the type of customer service that comes with working directly with the owner, operator, curator, and quality-control specialist of his own business.
"So many people are afraid to ruin a good piece of meat or seafood," the chef says. "I can ease those fears by giving them my own step-by-step instructions, techniques, and tips to create restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of their own homes. That's the best part for me — to see my customers each week, hand them their boxes, and help them create amazing meals for their friends and family."
Wahler & Sons Quality Foods. wahlerandsons.com.