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Former White House Chef Found Dead in Forest Near Taos Ski Valley

Society & Culture  (tags: obituary, sadness, death, family, celebrity, White House chef, Walter Scheib, Taos, New Mexico, news )

- 1425 days ago -
A renowned chef who went missing while hiking in the mountains above Taos Ski Valley June 13 was found dead Sunday. A search team located Walter Scheib, 61, approximately 1.7 miles from the trail head where his car was found Tuesday evening.


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Carrie B (306)
Monday June 22, 2015, 1:15 pm
A renowned chef who went missing while hiking in the mountains above Taos Ski Valley June 13 was found dead Sunday.

A search team located Walter Scheib, 61, approximately 1.7 miles from the trail head where his car was found Tuesday evening, according to the New Mexico State Police.

Scheib was found in a river between 20 and 30 feet off the trail, authorities said.

The discovery came amid the fifth day of a search-and-rescue mission to find Scheib.

The former White House Executive Chef had not been seen since June 13, when he is believed to have embarked on a hike near Taos Ski Valley. Authorities said he is not known to informed anyone of his plans and was not believed to have been prepared for more than a day outdoors.

Scheib’s Subaru was found at the Yerba Canyon trail head off N.M. 150 Tuesday evening. A search-and-rescue mission was launched Wednesday focusing on the steep, four-mile trail as well as a network of parallel paths that lead up to Lobo Peak.

Each day of the five-day effort involved dozens of volunteers, including some on horseback and others with dogs.

A state police helicopter also undertook a search from the air but its flight crew found the forest below too thick to see the trail.

Meanwhile, the rugged terrain hampered search efforts by foot. Teams also reported finding some areas still covered in snow at higher elevations.

And while the trails remained open, no hikers reported seeing any sign of Scheib.

Data from Scheib’s mobile telephone was obtained by search coordinators Thursday evening and indicated he was last connected to a cellular signal while in the area of Lobo Peak around 3 p.m. June 13.

Search coordinators said the data suggested Scheib likely ascended Yerba Canyon trail and at least got close to the summit, which rises 12,115 feet above sea level, but probably encountered trouble during his descent.

Storms pounded the Sangre de Cristo mountains around that time Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain, hail and lightening reported in the area likely made for treacherous conditions on a trail that can be challenging in the best of times.

The cellular telephone data led search teams to focus on the area around Lobo Peak.

The search Sunday included between 20 and 30 volunteers. One search-and-rescue volunteer was injured though not seriously while riding on horse back near San Cristobal trail, according to incident commander Robert Valdez.

A group from the New Mexico National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, New Mexico State Police and search-and-rescue were ferried near the top of Lobo Peak by a helicopter and descended Yerba Canyon trail on foot, authorities said.

It was on their way down that they reportedly found Scheib. His body was evacuated Sunday evening with the help of Taos Volunteer Fire Dept. personnel.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the terrible tragedy of Walter’s death, family members said in a statement Monday.

Scheib’s two sons as well as other family members had arrived earlier in the week to help with the search effort.

"As we await autopsy results, we would like to thank the New Mexico State Police, the Air Force, the National Guard and other volunteers for their hard work on the search operation," family members said. "Walter was a true outdoorsman with a lifelong love for the wild and he now rests in peace. We love him and we miss him."

Meanwhile, friends of the renowned chef watched the search from afar.

“I’m not going to speak of him in the past-tense,” Martin Mongiello said Saturday morning. Mongiello was executive chef at Camp David when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton hired Scheib. “He’s a great chef and we’re very concerned about him.”

Mongiello said Scheib made his mark on the job.

With the exception of Jon Hill, who served from 1987 to 1988, Scheib was the first American to work as White House Executive Chef since the post was created in 1961.

“To have another American chef join us was exciting,” Mongiello said.

As White House Executive Chef, Scheib is credited with bringing New American cuisine to the president’s banquet table.

“We were going through a culinary revolution,” said John Moeller, who served as a chef at The White House for 13 years, many of them alongside Scheib. “He brought a new fusion of foods, utilizing regional ingredients and challenging the culinary edges. Ms. Clinton enjoyed it and was a big supporter of him.”

Mongiello added they even “had the temerity to serve American wines,” noting labels from outside France were looked down on at The White House until around the mid-90s.

"Our family was grateful to have Walter with us in the White House for six years, where we and visitors from around the world loved his delicious and creative meals," President Bill Clinton said in a statement Monday. "Walter used his immense talents not only to represent the very best of American cuisine to visiting leaders, but to make a difference in people’s lives across the country through his support of numerous charities. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends."

After leaving The White House in 2005, Scheib authored a book about his experience there and launched a business, The American Chef, consulting on and creating special events.

While Scheib gained notoriety for his work at The White House, another friend said Saturday that he would like to be known for more than his role as executive chef there.

“What is it that ultimately led him to move on [from The White House]? He didn’t feel the love of cooking that he did at one time,” said Terry Tucker, chief strategy officer at City of Refuge, a shelter for women and children in inner city Atlanta where Scheib volunteered as chief culinary officer.

In getting involved with the organization approximately three years ago, Tucker said Scheib went from “serving those who had the most to those who had the least.”

Scheib not only consulted on menus for a food service program that provides 1,200 meals a day but also mentored residents who are enrolled in culinary arts training programs.

“He not only had a passion for cooking but a passion for restoring people,” Tucker said.

The two men spoke the day before he went missing, according to Tucker, recounting their plans for an upcoming cooking contest featuring celebrity chefs and former students from the shelter.

“He has been a big piece of our fabric over the last two years,” he said.

Friends said Scheib had only moved to Taos in recent months but was acquainted with the area, having previously spent time here.

“He loved New Mexico, loved the new cuisine,” Mongiello said. “He was really pumped up about living out there.”

Pamela A (48)
Monday June 22, 2015, 1:16 pm
My condolences
Something about this story doesn't sit right with me..
Ty for sharing

Past Member (0)
Monday June 22, 2015, 2:44 pm
Odd he didn't tell anyone of his plans. If going alone you're always supposed to let someone know.
Thank you Carrie

Past Member (0)
Tuesday June 23, 2015, 3:04 pm
Hmmmmm!! Noted--thanks Carrie. He may have had a tour guide.

mar l ene dinkins (264)
Tuesday June 23, 2015, 3:24 pm
noted ty for the article !

S J (124)
Tuesday June 23, 2015, 4:08 pm
I am sorry to learn the tragic loss, my condolences to his family and friends. thank you Carrie

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday June 23, 2015, 4:17 pm
Suspicious or just sad and tragic?

Arild Warud (174)
Wednesday June 24, 2015, 2:26 am
Thanks Carrie.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Thursday June 25, 2015, 12:24 am
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