Meet Sonnenalp’s new Executive Chef Joshua Marshall, who hopes to fine-tune hotel’s dining options
As the Sonnenalp Hotel’s new executive chef of culinary operations, Joshua Marshall hopes to streamline menus in an effort to provide locals and visitors with regionally-focused dining options. Swiss Chalet will remain Swiss-focused: he’s not touching the classics. But at Ludwig’s and Bully Ranch, Marshall will gradually introduce changes that reflect what he hopes to provide guests: healthy-ish, Rocky Mountain-forward menus with influences from his experiences cooking American Southwest and Asian food.
Having lived in Vail for two months, Marshall has noticed how respected the Sonnenalp is within the community.
“I don’t want to come into a place and just change everything off the bat,” he said. “The one thing I’ve noticed about this hotel is that people just come. The reputation, the quality, the service, the ownership … it’s great that they have that.”
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona, Marshall started his career at the Four Seasons. Over the course of his 15-year career, working in corporate hotels allowed him to move all around the United States: Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and later Denver; Naples, Florida; and Southern California, where he’s from. He’s spent the past five years living overseas with his family, serving in executive chef positions in Taiwan and Guangzhou, China.
He was in Guangzhou when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit China. He was incredibly busy through Chinese New Year in late January, and suddenly, his hotel’s occupancy dropped to zero. Wuhan is in the Hubei Province, 11 hours north of Guangzhou.
Marshall said Guangzhou is a “mega city” with nearby Hong Kong and Shenzen. Guangzhou wasn’t shut down to the same extent that Wuhan was, but the city suspended all food and beverage operations for two weeks. For Marshall, that meant room service and takeout only at the hotel.
“It was extreme. Everywhere you went, you had your temperature taken. You had to wear masks. It’s definitely on a different level than it is here, but the people and culture is completely different,” he said.
He was moving back to America to establish roots with his family anyway. After so many moves, Vail was the right place for them to find stability.
At Ludwig’s, Marshall hopes to continue providing accessible fine dining. One of the menu items he hopes to add is a tuna tartare, with a Chinese-style steamed egg white, shiso leaves and crispy salmon skin.
“I want people to be able to read a menu and say, ‘Oh, I know exactly what I’m going to eat,’” he said.
For breakfast, Marshall has added lighter options like a peanut butter acai bowl and avocado toast. For banquet menus, Marshall will have more creativity to insert Asian influences while staying true to the hotel’s European charm.
At Bully Ranch, Marshall is going to retouch the menu so that each offering reflects a common culinary theme: a regional, healthier-type menu that still captures all those indulgent favorites in mountain and Southwest cuisine.
Many of the signature items will stay in some form — the ribs, the fish tacos and the nachos, for example — and some will get a dialed-in, healthy update. Of course, salads are on that list. Marshall will add a kale and quinoa salad, a baby iceberg with house-made green goddess dressing and a beetroot salad, and he will keep the Caesar and Cobb salads.
“We’re definitely trying to go into more healthy options but still keeping it Bully Ranch,” he said.
The big thing Marshall has noticed at Bully Ranch is the amount of food waste produced by large portions. He hopes to slightly reduce portion sizes so less waste comes back to the kitchen. While he was in Taiwan, Marshall became more attuned to food waste and sustainability. Taiwan is a global epicenter for sustainability and recycling.
That’s why he’s trying to reduce the Sonnenalp’s impact and why he bikes home from work. That’s also why he’s working to use regional and sustainable foods in the hotel’s culinary operations, particularly in Ludwig’s. He’s serving Rocky Mountain trout and Colorado beef, and he wants to know where it comes from and that the fishermen and ranchers are doing their due diligence to the environment. He wants guests to feel a sense of place when they dine at the hotel.
For Marshall, working at the Sonnenalp was appealing on several levels. From a personal standpoint, he and his wife, who’s working in Vail as a family prep chef, are raising two daughters, a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old. They were looking for a place to settle down with the family and establish some roots, after moving so much in their kids’ early years.
But also, Marshall got tired of the corporate world. He is grateful for the experience working for multi-billion-dollar international corporations gave him: their resources are partially what allowed him to live in so many different places. But he’s thankful to be in one place now.
“I want to try it out once,” he said. “So far, I love it here.”
He hopes to get his oldest on skis while he dusts off his like-new snowboard he bought 10 years ago in Denver.
While he’s excited for his family life, he’s also excited for the new workplace environment. After so many years in corporate hotels, he craved a sense of community. With Sonnenalp’s status as a family-owned-and-operated business, he knows he has employers who are just as invested in him as a person as they are in the work and the bottom line.
“Mr. (Johannes) Faessler’s office is 20 feet away. I think what he’s built here, the benefits for employees, and how long people have worked here … it’s incredible,” Marshall said. “I wanted to work in a place like this, where people actually care about me.”
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