When Augustus Paquette-Whall left the Island for Chicago in 2011, his goal was clear: to earn his stripes in city kitchens and eventually return to the Vineyard. But Chef Gus, as he’s known, came back with more than culinary technique. His experience transformed his career goal into the desire to create quality food in a fair, equitable working environment.

Gus’ role as executive chef at Morning Glory Farm is the culmination of this goal; his background in fine dining as both a chef and a manager prepared him for a job that includes overseeing a staff of 40 in a production kitchen with a full bakery on a working farm.

Gus’ journey from a dishwasher in an Island restaurant at age 15 to executive sous chef for a major restaurant group included positions at myriad restaurants which featured a range of cuisines. He started in Chicago with Chef Guiseppe Tentori of the Boka Restaurant Group, focusing on American seafood at GT Fish & Oyster. He then worked with acclaimed Chef Marcus Samuelsson at his Chicago restaurant, learning traditional Swedish cuisine. Gus then joined Chef Cory Morris at Mercat de la Planxa, which specializes in Spanish Catalan cuisine. This experience would put Gus to the test. It was a fast-paced restaurant environment that was part of a hotel, where the kitchen prepared two to three tasting menus in addition to a full menu five days a week. Gus thrived, moving quickly from line cook to sous chef and then to senior sous chef.

“That was my comfort zone,” Gus said. “You have seven chefs picking apart your dish and there’s a lot of critique, but it only makes you better.”

Gus was exposed to expediting (managing the flow of orders in a kitchen as they come in) as well as the management side of the kitchen; he was promoted at age 22 and was overseeing a union shop. He then joined Chef Jose Garces and Chef Richard Sandoval in opening a 24,000 square-foot food hall called Latinicity, which focused on traditional Spanish flavors as well as Latin American food.

After years of cooking in fine dining restaurants, Chef Gus finds that his role as executive chef of Morning Glory Farm aligns perfectly with his values and family life. Ray Ewing

But despite flourishing as a manager and mastering new flavors and techniques, Gus was unhappy with the long-standing traditional chef work experience: being underpaid and overworked.

“I was traumatized by restaurants,” he said. “I’ve seen how kitchens are run and I vowed to treat people with respect.”

Gus also wanted to help other chefs come up in the industry, something that shaped his career as a young cook just out of high school. “I see kitchens as a tool to help people,” he says. “I needed guidance and the second chef I worked for took in a lot of people and gave them a chance.”

A summer back on the Vineyard in 2013 to take care of his stepfather, which included working as a line cook at State Road Restaurant, would prove to be fortuitous. In early 2017 Gus and his wife decided it was time to settle down on the Vineyard and Gus became chef de cuisine at State Road. He was promoted to head chef and remained there until February 2020 when the impact of the pandemic hit home.

“I have asthma and there were so many unknowns at that time, and my wife and I wanted a family,” he said. “We made a life decision that fine dining is not conducive to having kids!”

Gus took time off but a few months later felt the pull back to the kitchen. With the urging of Mary and Jackson Kenworth (owners of State Road Restaurant), Gus applied for the job at Morning Glory Farm and was hired in March 2021.

It’s a role that seems tailor-made for his experience and professional goals. “Their mission statement is aligned with mine: sustainability, an equitable work environment, and caring about the environment,” Gus said.

The Morning Glory kitchen is a full-time operation; the bakers start between 3 and 4 a.m. and the kitchen stoves are turned on not long after. Gus is overseeing the bakery expansion with head baker Teresa Kirkpatrick, who recently started a yeast bread program using flour only from Maine Grains.

Gus’ first culinary challenge was standardizing procedures and recipes. With that complete, Chef Gus wants to balance customer favorites with sharing the flavors he learned from his years in Chicago. He’s also incorporating new flavors from chef de cuisine Doug Williams, who worked in Asian restaurants in New York City and learned authentic techniques. “It’s been an awesome collaboration with Doug,” Gus said, pointing to the new items like Hot & Sour Soup and Szechuan Chicken as examples of Chef Doug’s contributions. The selection of “grab n’ go” items has expanded as well.

“I have two kids so I understand the time constraints and how hard it is to get fast, quality food made with care and good ingredients,” he said. Gus also points to the bounty available to him from the farm’s 65 acres and the seasonality of the products that plays a vital role in developing and executing recipes.

But maintaining a work environment based on respect is Gus’ ultimate goal and one that is shared with the entire Athearn family.

“The culture here is amazing and that is very important to me. Simon is the CEO and he has progressive management ideas,” noted Gus.

Mentoring and teaching are at the core of Gus’ management approach, in addition to a kitchen free from screaming and yelling. “Teaching people takes more time but it’s worth it,” he said.

Gus is already looking ahead to the busy summer season when the farm stand is open seven days a week. “We’ll have new menu items monthly and more variety of items during the summer months,” he said. With a summer crew of approximately 50 people plus seven to eight managers, Gus and everyone at the farm’s retail operation will be running at full speed. It will take all hands on deck to produce the approximately 1,800 muffins, 800 pies, 300 quarts of soup, and 1,100 containers of tuna and chicken salad Morning Glory typically sells in a single week in August. But quality and flavor are the baseline for everything that comes from the kitchen.

“I have a high bar for food,” Gus said.

Gus remains committed to a work-life balance, taking time to spend with his wife and two children. When they have a chance to grab a bite, you’ll find them at The Fish House, Beach Road, Mo’s Lunch, and Rocco’s Pizza.

Both in and out of the kitchen Gus has one lesson he hopes to pass on: “I want to instill the idea that you can be kind, have good values, and still work hard.”


Laura Holmes Haddad is a freelance writer living in West Tisbury.