“He got a lot out of his 44 years,” his father said. “People always said, ‘He was a good dude to hang out with.’ ”
Whalen was a noted outdoorsman, but he was best known for his cooking ability.
Often referred to as a “chef’s chef,” Whalen worked at many of the best restaurants in the Cincinnati area before becoming the executive chef at the Coach House Tavern & Grille in his hometown.
The 1993 Hamilton High School graduate attended Regis University in Denver, Colo., and graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in 2000. He interned with Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel at The Maisonette in Cincinnati, and was hired there when the internship was completed.
He later was named Chef de Cuisine at Pho Paris in Cincinnati, which was ranked one of the city’s Top 10 restaurants by Cincinnati Magazine.
In 2008, Whalen helped conceptualize and launch Chalk Food Wine in Covington, Ky., and was later named Sous Chef at Jean-Robert’s Table in Cincinnati.
Whalen’s other passion was the great outdoors.
His mother said when Whalen was 10, he traveled to Maine and for two weeks, rode his bike during a Biking Expedition Camp. The following year, he did the same on the West Coast, then in Canada. When he was 14, he biked around Europe, his mother said.
“He fell in love with the outdoors,” she said.
Four years ago, Whalen took a sabbatical from the restaurant business and hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Soon after, he brought his culinary gifts to his hometown, where he served as executive chef at the Coach House Tavern & Grille.
In 2016, Whalen was instrumental in menu changes at the restaurant, located at Berkley Square, as it opened its doors to the public for the first time in 15 years.
Karen Whalen described her son as “a good human being,” and said that since his death Monday, the family has learned more about his generosity and kindness through stories shared by his friends. He purchased cooking utensils for other chefs and guitars for musicians, she said.
Besides his parents, Whalen is survived by two brothers, Jon and James.
Services will be private at the convenience of the family.
A celebration of life for family and friends will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Michael J. Colligan Lodge at Veterans Park in Hamilton.
Memorials may be sent to the Community First Foundation for Berkeley Square, 230 Ludlow St., Hamilton, 45011; or the Great Miami River Recreational Trail Fund, c/o the Hamilton Community Foundation, 319 N. Third St., Hamilton, 45011.