Yup. You viewed it right. And those who crowded his restaurant Wednesday evening had the chance to win it with him. He faced chefs from much larger cities than Wheeling; he prepared a decadent mac and cheese in round one and his signature pork chop with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes in round two, and in the end, Matt Welsch collected $20,000 after the shopping challenge. His motivation? The Vagabond Chef repeated several times, “I just want to make a positive impact on my community. That’s all I really want to do.” Introduced as a motorcycle enthusiast who owns an eatery in a struggling downtown in Appalachia, Welsch was challenged with $40 to spend on two courses in an episode titled, “Budget Wars,” with a chance to win as much as $20,000. They found Welsch on Instagram, and that is why he decided to broadcast his viewing party from the corner of 12th and Market streets on the same social media platform. “It all came together very quickly after they found me on Instagram, and I had very little time to get prepared for it, but that’s where Chef Chris (Kefauver) from West Virginia Northern Community College came into play,” Welsch said. “He helped me tremendously as far as my preparation was concerned because, as a restaurant owner, there’s so much more to it than just the cooking. It was all very humbling; it really was. Although he doesn’t get into the kitchen as much as he wishes, Matt Welsch did assist his talented staff Wednesday evening before the eatery’s viewing party. “When I opened my restaurant, one of my goals was to be on the line making great food, but it was the first time I owned a place instead of just working at a place, so that was a major change for me,” he said. “I found out very quickly I couldn’t do both, but the ‘Grocery Games’ gave me the chance to get back in that zone. It felt really awesome, and it was so difficult not to say anything to anyone about the end results.” The first round was all about “guilty pleasures,” and while one of his three opponents opted for spicy wings and another chose a patty melt with hash browns, he and a 19-year-old competitor prepared their own versions of mac and cheese. Welsch included a variety of cheeses and topped the dish with fried bacon, while the other utilized turkey bacon instead of the pork version. That was a deciding factor with the three judges, including Aarti Sequeira, Marc Murphy and Robert Irvine. His second round was an pork chop entrée, and Welsch plated his dish for nearly $20, while his opponent countered with spicy shrimp tacos with Pico de Gallo. “I went with what my customers love the most in our downtown Wheeling location, and wow, did the judges approve,” he explained. “You know, maybe it’s a shame that my face is the face that represented the city of Wheeling and the state of West Virginia, but I did my very best to do what I was able to accomplish. Customer after customer asked the Vagabond Chef what the results were from the national show, and this was Welsch’s reaction each and every time. “I don’t know how this will benefit me in the future; I really don’t, but I am really happy that I was able to represent this city and our state well with winning it,” Welsch said. “I wanted to make everyone proud when I went out there to California, and I hope that’s what I did. I’d love for the host, Guy Fieri, to come here to the Vagabond Kitchen so he can try a lot of the other things that we’re offering here.” Is Welsch a future television star? “Oh man, who knows the answer to that question? I mean, I think it would be fun to do something with the network, but when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll just go back to fighting for my restaurant the same way I have every day since we opened at this location more than a year ago,” he said. “Could this be a launching pad? I really have no idea. “Right now, I think the sky is the limit, but that’s not my decision,” Welsch added. “But now I just hope this benefits our community, my family, my staff and our customers in some way. Right now, I don’t know what can all happen, but I’m not really sure how any of this happened, to be honest. But I am very thankful, and I look forward to tomorrow just like I do every night when I hit the sack.” (Photos by Steve Novotney) Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window) 10 Responses Linda August 12, 2018 Matt, it took us a while to finally get to your restaurant but we made it last night for my birthday celebration. I had the amazing lemon Caper chicken over scrumptious vegetables and awesome cheesy garlic mashed potatoes. Our friend had the prize winning pork chop and it looked incredible. He had to take some of it home it was so huge LOL A little wine, a slice if espresso cheesecake to share; a great time had by all. Don’t ever leave Wheeling!!! Log in to Reply Fred June 22, 2018 I met him at West Virginia’s 155th birthday soiree . Fine food from fine Gent! Log in to Reply Betty Burley February 25, 2018 Congratulations, Matt. I watched the show and was so happy for the results. I have to smile when I think about the name. Log in to Reply Dave Thomas February 23, 2018 Great job, Matt. You make Wheeling more and more proud! Log in to Reply Tracy February 22, 2018 WTG!!!! CONGRATS MATT Log in to Reply Teresa February 22, 2018 I watched the show and he did an awesome job !! Log in to Reply Gary Knowlton February 22, 2018 Were thankfully there last night what grand time we had great steak and sides . It was almost like a being present for a sporting event everyone cheering at different intervals of the show , and then when it came down to the finale and Guy said CHEF MATT the place erupted eurphorically it was a lot of fun and a great memory. Thanks Matt Log in to Reply Amy Dharawat February 22, 2018 What show was it? Log in to Reply Anonymous February 22, 2018 Wow! Congratulations Matt your love for the city of Wheeling is very impressive and you have a great restaurant, and I hope you can call the corner of 12th and Markethome for along time. Log in to Reply Earl Nicodemus February 22, 2018 My wife and I are going to head over to the Vagabond Kitchen to see if that great looking Mac and Cheese is on the menu yet! Congrats to Matt! All of us here in the valley are proud of you! 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