Chef brings star power to fall festival

Black Mountain Home for Children's signature event returns

Fred McCormick

For most people, the idea of preparing barbecue brisket for 1,000 diners would send them into a panic.

But not Doug Walls. Walls will be doing that Saturday, Oct. 8 at the annual Black Mountain Home for Children fall festival. And it's not the most stressful thing he's done this year.

Just months after his appearance on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, Walls, the executive chef for the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, brings considerable star power to the home's annual festival .

Walls, who moved to Black Mountain less than a year ago, appeared in the reality cooking show's episode "The Pesto Times, The Worst of Times" in May.

Doug Walls, the executive chef at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, will preparing barbecue brisket for the Oct. 8 fall festival at the Black Mountain Home for Children

"It was crazy," he said. "I only applied once and they had me on. The whole thing was an experience I won't forget."

The exposure generated by his appearance on the show's 12th season led to an online presence for Walls.

"I didn't even have social media six months ago," said Wall, who now has 5,000 Facebook friends and more than 6,000 Twitter followers. "Things have completely changed for me for sure."

Walls plans to use his platform to generate additional publicity for this year's fall festival.

"If you have a voice, you should use it," Walls said. "I want to make this the biggest festival they've had yet."

Chef Douglas Walls hopes to use the exposure generated by his appearance on Cutthroat Kitchen to provide more publicity for the Oct. 8 fall festival at the Black Mountain Home for Children.

Walls, a graduate of the culinary arts program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, learned about the children's home in Black Mountain through Will Graham, the executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Walls has been the executive chef at the training center for four years, serving more than 100,000 meals per year.

"I've always had a heart for helping kids," Walls said. "So now 100 percent of our leftovers go to the Black Mountain Home for Children, and my wife started volunteering there as well."

Supporting the home is a natural fit for Walls, who worked for New Direction Ministry (currently New Direction Farm) in Marshall when it was owned by his parents.

"I'm blessed to have had parents that didn't give up on me," he said. "So it's important to me to help kids that don't have that same support."

The event that Walls is supporting is the "signature event" for the home that's been at its current location since 1922. The fall festival has grown considerably in recent years, according to Sarah Thomas, the home's vice president of finance and development.

"The festival has been around for more than 10 years," Thomas said. "It’s grown from less than 100 people coming out to more than 1,000."

While the event raises money for the home, its significance extends beyond fundraising, according to Thomas.

"The fall festival is the day when we really showcase our campus and our ministry," she said. "It’s the one day each year when we basically throw the doors open and invite everyone we know for a party. It’s also an opportunity for our children to be involved while meeting donors and supporters without feeling like they’re the focus of all the attention."

This year the festival will feature live music from 3,000 Souls, a Christian band based out of Asheville.

Sponsors of the fall festival this year are Dawn Wilson Realty, Custom Exhaust & Brakes and Larry & Patricia Clark. There is still time to donate an item to the auction or become a sponsor by calling Black Mountain Home for Children at 686-3451, according to Thomas.

"We want the world to know about the work we’re doing to change children’s lives for the better," Thomas said. "The event always wraps up with a brief presentation about our ministry — we want to educate our guests while also making sure they enjoy a fun fall day in the mountains."