Chef leaves retirement to pursue new job, challenges

MARTINSBURG — Retirement is not for everybody.

“I retired in 2014. That lasted about two years. We have three cats who lay around; it was like a competition between me and the cats. It was time to go back to work,” said Wesley Fix, 70, who has more than 50 years of experience in the food service industry.

After doing some temporary work to keep himself busy, Wesley took over the position of executive chef and assistant food director at Homewood at Martinsburg in June.

“I was tired of laying around the house with the cats. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’ve been training for two months getting to know how to run the operation better,” Wesley said.

Wesley grew up in Bedford and graduated from Bedford High School in 1965.

He said he didn’t know what type of career to pursue, but had family members who had worked in the restaurant business.

His uncle, Gene Fix, was executive chef at Bedford Springs Hotel in the 1960s. His father, Sherman, worked for Howard Johnson’s for nearly 50 years.

Wesley started his career after high school as short-order cook at Howard Johnson’s in Breezewood. He then moved to the State College location as an assistant manager.

Throughout his career, he served under various top chefs, including David Bouley, who was voted top chef in the United States in 1989. He has worked in first class hotels, including resorts in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

He became a sous chef in Cape Cod in 1975 and an executive chef in 1979.

His first job as an executive chef was at Bedford Springs in 1979. The resort was sold in 1980, and he then moved to the New Castle Country Club as executive chef.

“That was my favorite place to live. I enjoyed it out there. The people were really nice. Then I moved to Crown American as executive chef and stayed there only one year,” Wesley said. “Once I became a chef, my next goal was to own my own business. I was not happy working for other people.”

With the help of his parents, Wesley and his wife, Colleen, purchased the Country Way Restaurant in New Paris.

“We owned that for 10 to 12 years. I was chef and owner. It was wonderful. It gave me the opportunity to own a business. You learned how to deal with people and the financial end of it,” he said.

Then the Carriage House Restaurant became available.

“It had a liquor license. I wanted that. I owned both for about two years. I owned Carriage House until 2014,” he said.

His experience with the Carriage House was very rewarding.

“It was in bankruptcy and was closed. People said it was a dead horse in the water. I always liked challenges. People said Carriage House wouldn’t work. I proved them wrong,” Wesley said.

He sold the business in 2014 and retired.

But Wesley was not happy without a job. A friend of his, Gary Sipes, told him about the opening at Homewood.

“I was looking for part time. I interviewed. I thought I wouldn’t mind working full time. I really enjoy it. It is like starting over in a different field,” Wesley said. “It looked like another challenge to me. I wanted to work. I enjoy work.”

Homewood Executive Director Lisa Defibaugh is glad to have Wesley on board.

“When we heard Chef Wesley Fix was available, we were thrilled. His background and experience make him a perfect fit for our community,” Defibaugh said.

“Many remember him from the Bedford Springs Resort and we were definitely looking for a chef that could bring a five-star experience, blended with a mastery of the local favorites,” Defibaugh added. “The staff and residents are all enjoying getting to know him and we are excited to have him as part of our team.”

Wesley said he is enjoying his new role.

“I am not doing much cooking now. I am more in the operational end of things. I am working with the dietary staff to make the menus. As we span out into more in-house catering, there will be more on the food end of it. I will make menus for special parties,” Wesley said.

He admits creating menus for residents with special needs is a challenge.

“One person needs thickened water or thickened coffee; they have special diets. Pureed foods can’t have a speck of meat in them,” he said.

But Wesley is no longer thinking about retirement.

“I would like to work another 10 years. My mom is 91, in good health. My dad lived to 93. I have good genes,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.