David Walford joins Pendulum, White Bison; changes coming to Vail restaurants
The Vail Valley has been good to David Walford, and David Walford has been good to the Vail Valley.
Walford moved to Vail in 1974 and worked as “just a cook” at The Red Lion, back when it was “considered a fine dining place.” He also worked at Cyrano’s at the top of Bridge Street. “It was very popular in its day in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Like many people who look to make a life in the Vail Valley, Walford left.
“Professionally, I thought I needed to go other places to learn my skills in the restaurant business,” he said, heading to work at a famous restaurant in Napa Valley before working in four different restaurants in France. “So I was doing it for my career and education.”
Little did he know, he was also doing it for the culinary scene in the Vail Valley, too.
Walford returned to the valley and worked at Sweet Basil in Vail for 10 years before putting Splendido up at Beaver Creek on the culinary map. After 22 years there, he retired in 2016 when the lease changed. At Splendido, he was known for creating a comforting dining experience both with his presence and his food.
With Walford’s touch in kitchens throughout the valley and at 63 years old, his career seemed to have run its final course. But, he is coming out of retirement to put a cherry on top.
‘It’s What I Do’
Walford is joining the management teams at White Bison and Pendulum restaurants in Vail Village, helping run the kitchens and the staffs.
“David’s kind of like the godfather of restaurateurs in the valley,” said Rick Hayes, owner of White Bison and Pendulum, as well as Crespelle. “We’re really excited to have him. Everybody knows David.”
After creating extravagant dishes at Splendido for 20-plus years as the chef, Walford is excited to take on a new role in the restaurant business.
“It’s kind of fun for me because I’ve been a chef for so many years, so it’s fun being able to work other parts of the restaurants,” he said.
While White Buffalo will see moderate changes under Walford, Pendulum is getting a complete makeover — new name, menu and all. With a lot happening before the ski season, Walford is moving with haste to get ready for November — despite being fresh off retirement.
“It’s keeping me on my toes. I think I’m going to be running around like a madman this winter. I skied about 50 times last year, but I don’t know if I’ll get that many skiing days in this winter, but I don’t care. I’m happy working. I’m happy being in restaurants. It’s what I do and what I’ve done my whole life. I’m very passionate and excited to be here,” Walford said.
When Hayes departed with a management company out of California trying to run the restaurants from 1,000 miles away, his new list turned local.
“I had been to both those restaurants (Sweet Basil and Splendido) a lot over the years and knew David a little bit, so when we were looking to make a change, he was at the top of our list,” Hayes said. “So we feel very fortunate to be able to partner with him.”
Pendulum, which opened in a beautiful location on Bridge Street in January, is going to undergo a transformation in November to be ready for the upcoming ski season. The concept will go from a high-end sit-down-for-hours experience to a quick, social and filling dining experience.
With the restaurant struggling in its first year, Walford and Hayes studied its location, the numbers and needs of Vail Village and Bridge Street. They considered Mexican, sushi, Italian and other concepts.
In its prime location with high foot traffic, the new restaurant will have meals with average checks around $25 and a serving time of about 10 minutes, Hayes said.
“We really think that’s missing not only just in the village, but on Bridge Street in particular,” Hayes said of affordable eats in Vail. “Hopefully we’ll broaden the choices.”
The new name is still in the works, but when the lifts start turning, there will be a new spot for locals, and visitors, looking for a nice, quick dining experience that doesn’t cost a pretty penny.
The new menu will include a fried chicken sandwich, burgers, ramen, salads and other filling meals. There’s also a Spanish-inspired ham and cheese as well as a rotisserie chicken that will appear across the menu items. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
And while it will be a more efficient way to fill up on a powder day, the new concept will also allow for expanded meals and people watching from the balcony.
“We’re just thinking there’s a lot of people that don’t want to eat fancy food at night. They want a burger, or a sandwich or a salad, and a half-hour to an hour dining time is more than enough,” Walford said. “They don’t always need to go to a fine dining restaurant.”
White Bison, located in another prime location overlooking Gore Creek, has been doing “fairly well but can do better,” Walford said. The plan there is to revamp the menu and build a more eclectic list. The interior is also planned to see an upgrade, with chairs and tables adding to the comfort level of the dining room.
“We have enough steak restaurants around here, and they’re all great — Lancelot, Elway’s and all these guys,” Walford said, “but we want to be a little broader.”
The new menu at White Bison will feature oysters, crabs, chicken and other meats in addition to steaks.
“I hope people are looking forward to a new and improved White Bison and a whole new concept on Bridge Street that’s going to be casual and something people can enjoy,” he said.
Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.