From his rapper origins to his career as a famous actor, Mark Wahlberg is now one of the biggest stars in the movie industry. However, while his primary focus is acting, Mark also happens to be a co-owner and a founding member of one of the biggest restaurant chains currently active.
Including himself, Mark tackles the restaurant business alongside his brothers Paul and Donnie. In 2011, Mark and his brothers opened what would be the first in a long line of chain restaurants. Their restaurant, Wahlburgers, is so popular that its fame not only comes from its diverse menu of burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches, but also from its own reality TV series.
Named after the Wahlbergs, Wahlburgers is one of the most popular programs airing on the A&E network. The show has been running since 2014, with a total of eight seasons, featuring a total of 75 episodes. While Mark is a part of the show’s main cast, the real star of the series is his brother Paul, the chef responsible for some of the many successful dishes at Wahlburgers.
Thanks to Wahlburgers, fans of the family have learned more interesting facts about the Walhbergs and their restaurant. Like all businesses, they face their share of challenges. However, through the ups and downs, they demonstrate themselves able to work together to create one of the best burgers restaurants in North America and beyond.
Here are 20 Secrets Behind Wahlburgers.
20 Their “Impossible Burger” Is 100% Meatless
As one of the most premiere burger joints, Wahlburgers reputation as a restaurant and TV show has earned it a huge cult following. It is the type of restaurant that every foodie and burger lover needs to try at least once. Once you take a bite from one of Wahlburgers famous burgers, you’ll want to go back for more.
Now, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, and you have never been to Wahlburgers before, you probably think you won’t be able to benefit from this amazing culinary experience. However, there is no need to fear. As of January 2018, Wahlburgers has added a new burger to their menu that even non-meat eaters can enjoy. Vegetable lovers need look no further than to the one and only “Impossible Burger”.
According to Metro, the “Impossible Burger” is a one of a kind burger that is the result of Wahlburgers partnership with Impossible Foods. This burger is made from 100% vegan friendly food ingredients.
Despite being vegan friendly, even meat lovers can enjoy and appreciate the Impossible Burger -- even without any meat, the burger tastes nearly identical to a beef burger.
Just the thought of such a tantalizing dish is enough to make anyone drool with envy, regardless of their diet.
19 Their Family Started With Nothing
Considering their current success in both Hollywood, and the restaurant industry, the Wahlbergs are easily one of the most famous families in the world. However, this was not always the case. Before their rise to fame and prestige, the Wahlbergs were just another regular family.
If anything, Mark and his family had it rough while growing up. As a big family, they were often unable to provide themselves with new clothes and were forced to eat whatever they had on hand. In the episode “5 O’Clock is Dinner Time”, Paul and Mark mention that sometimes their suppers would consist only of cereal, or any combination of foods they had on hand. On more than one occasion, Mark and his family grew so desperate they even turned to loan sharks for help.
The Wahlbergs are a classic "rags to riches" story. Despite having so many odds against them, their perseverance eventually paid off. Through all the trials and tragedies, the Wahlbergs rose from obscurity and made a name for themselves. Only by relying on and supporting each other were they able to reach where they are now.
Today, they are a household name, not just in the entertainment industry, but in the food industry as well.
18 Paul Is Not The Only Cook
While his brothers may surpass him when it comes to acting, Paul makes up for it with his natural proficiency in cooking. As a chef, Paul is responsible for coming up with some of Wahlburgers most delicious delicacies. At least once a month, he comes up with a brand-new burger. One of his most well-known creations that was also featured in Wahlburgers, was “Donnie’s Double D” burger.
Even before they started Wahlburgers, Paul and his brothers already had the necessary experience that comes with running a restaurant - all thanks to their first restaurant Alma Nove, which opened in 2010. According to Eater, the name of this famous Mediterranean restaurant was inspired by their siblings, and especially their mother.
The A&E’s website features some of Alma’s famous dishes, which also happen to be some of her children’s favorite dishes.
Among this list are her out of this world pasta dishes such as her mac and cheese, and lasagna (which also happens to be one of Mark’s personal favorites). Alma even contributes her fair share of cooking in Wahlburgers. In the episode, “5 O’Clock is Dinnertime”, Alma and Paul challenge each other to a sauce off, where the restaurant employees voted on whose sauce was better.
17 The Key To Their Success Is Family
When it comes to the Wahlbergs, family always comes first. Even after their parents’ divorce, the Wahlberg kids made sure to stick together. Through thick and thin, the Wahlbergs have always relied on one another to get themselves through the day.
In fact, Paul and his brothers’ close relationship with their mother happens to be one of the defining aspects that makes the show Wahlburgers so successful. Having raised nine children by herself, the love her kids have for her is undeniable. Even though his younger brothers often make fun of and tease him, Paul relies on his brothers to keep his business going. Such dedication and sacrifice to each other is what makes watching Wahlburgers so entertaining.
After all, watching the everyday lives of one of North America’s most prominent families is guaranteed to attract a lot of viewers. Wahlburgers is more than just about food, it's also about family. Sure, they may be famous, but in the end, much of their accomplishments and status would not mean much if it was not for their support in one another.
However, it's safe to say that after the events of the episode “Trading Places”, when Donnie attempted to take over Paul's role, Paul may not be so willing to let Donnie run the restaurant any time soon.
16 The Show Has A Spin-Off
After its first three seasons, Wahlburgers became so popular that A&E approved a spin-off series. The spin-off series focuses on Paul’s brother Donnie and is titled Donnie Loves Jenny. The series follows Donnie and his wife, Jenny McCarthy, and chronicles their everyday lives as newlyweds and the challenges they face together.
Following their marriage in 2014, their show premiered on January 7 2015, the same day Wahlburgers debuted their third season. It ran successfully for three seasons, with a total of 26 episodes, before it was canceled in 2016.
When the series first started, both Jenny and Donnie stated that they were excited about their new potential project with A&E. According to an article by TV By The Numbers, both Jenny and Donnie explain that they love working together.
Donnie Loves Jenny provided them the ideal opportunity to “work and play together,” despite their “crazy schedules.”
Even after his show was canceled, Donnie keeps himself busy as a producer, songwriter, and actor. He even returns as part of Wahlburgers' main cast. Despite his busy schedule, Donnie still finds time to help his brothers with their business, according to Entrepreneur. Donnie describes himself as the metaphorical the glue responsible for keeping his brothers together.
15 The Show Is Part Of A New Reality Of Building Brands
When the Wahlburgers was picked up by A&E, many saw it as just another celebrity gimmick. According to Adweek, Mark himself was also skeptical and hesitant about the idea of appearing on live TV.
However, once the ball got rolling on Wahlburgers, it became clear that it was not going to stop anytime soon. Unlike most reality shows about Hollywood families, the purpose behind Wahlburgers was not to to help struggling actors make a comeback. If anything, the series serves to increase the Wahlbergs' ever-growing status and popularity in Hollywood.
Wahlburgers is a one of many popular reality TV shows that introduce a new reality of building brands. Along with other series like Cake Boss and Say Yes To The Dress on TLC, Wahlburgers focuses on building a brand by becoming a TV series. By taking this step, the show further increases the brand’s reputation by raising it to never before seen heights.
However, it is important to consider that even though Wahlburgers helps to increase its brand, it is not just a mere marketing tool. It also shows the inner workings and heart of what the business is all about. Everyday, Wahlburgers and its employees work hard to provide customers with an unforgettable experience through exceptional quality and service.
As for Mark, he describes in Adweek that the positive influence of the restaurant has only further contributed to the brand he’s worked over two decades to achieve.
14 Wahlburgers Has Its Own Air Jordan Sneakers
If you are a fan of Mark Wahlberg, then you are most likely aware of his love for Air Jordan sneakers. Mark also happens to be close friends with Michael Jordan, whom he occasionally hangs out with to play golf.
With the constant expansion of his restaurant chain, it was only a matter of time before Wahlburgers got roped into Mark’s love for Air Jordans. According to Grub Street, back in December of 2016, the show hinted towards a potential project between the restaurant and Nike. Eventually, towards the end of January, Mark officially revealed the fruits of his and Nike’s collaboration.
The result of the collaboration is none other than a pair of unique sneakers bearing the Wahlburgers brand.
The official name for these one-of-a-kind shoes, as teased by Mark on Instagram, are the "Wahlburgers x Jordan Formula 23". According to Grub Street, Wahlberg himself contributed to the shoes' intriguing design, which features a St. Paddy’s day shade of green as its main color. If you are not a fan of all that green, no worries. The shoe also comes in other varieties as well.
According to Highsnobiety, a hurricane relief campaign was sponsored by a collaboration between StockX and Eminem in September 2017. To raise over $250, 000 worth of funds, for every $10 donation, donors would receive an entry for the chance to win sneakers from some of the world's biggest celebrities. Among the sneakers donated were Mark’s Jordan Formula 23s.
13 Mark Wahlberg Is An Executive Producer
When you heard that the man formerly known as “Marky Mark” was opening a restaurant, your first reaction was probably one of surprise or intrigue. Although technically, Mark and Donnie may have helped in its inception, the main man responsible for bringing the idea to life is their brother, Paul.
Nevertheless, even with his exceptional cooking skills, Paul still needs his brothers to keep the business going. Without their help, both the show and restaurant would not be what it is today. Mark occasionally goes to see his brother to sample some of his delicious creations. However, Mark’s contribution goes beyond just eating burgers. He plays a secondary role that makes him vital to the operation of Wahlburgers.
According to Observer, the show is produced by “44 Blue Productions” in association with several other mediums. However, what most may not be aware of is that Mark, along with Donnie and Steven Levinson, serve as the shows executive producers. At first, Mark expressed some reservations with being on the show, but over time, he has slowly grown accustomed to his role in Wahlburgers.
In any case, it is admirable that Mark takes time out of his busy schedule to help with Wahlburgers, both on and off the air.
12 The Show Features The “Real” Johnny Drama
In 2004, the show Entourage premiered on HBO. The show is inspired by the story of Mark Wahlberg’s arrival in Hollywood during the nineties. The show also features a cast of lookalikes portraying Mark and his clique who followed him to Hollywood at the time. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Mark avoids answering which parts of the show were similar to his real-life experiences. Although, he has mentioned that in comparison, his genuine experience was “a lot more dark and edgy.”
One of the most memorable characters featured in Entourage was Johnny “Drama” Alves, played by Kevin Dillon. In Wahlburgers, the real-life Johnny Drama often makes appearances. Overall, he comes off as a funny guy, and states that he and Mark have been friends since he was 17.
Although he comes off as the “funny guy” of Mark’s entourage, it's clear that even though they may not be related, he and Mark are practically family.
In the show, Johnny explains that following Mark’s release from jail when he was younger, he often looked after and took care of him. From hanging out to even cooking for him, Johnny is a devoted friend, through and through -- plus, he knows how to bring the laughs to Wahlburgers.
11 Donnie And Mark Have Boy Band Origins
Not many people may know of this, but both Donnie and Mark have boy band origins. When he was much younger, Donnie was one of the founding members of the New Kids on the Block. Eventually, Donnie also invited his brother to be a part of said group. However, Mark’s position in Donnie's group was only temporary. He left the group shortly before they had a chance to do their first recording.
Choosing to not give up just yet on being part of a boy band, Mark decided to start his own group. Thus, “Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch” was born. Although the brothers worked in two separate, yet somewhat affiliated groups, they both managed to achieve significant success.
Eventually, Donnie left the New Kids on the Block to pursue other interests. As for Mark, following the failure of his second album, he took a leave from the music industry. However, through perseverance, Mark soon made his way into the field of acting.
From boy band to actor, and now he can add restaurant chain owner to that list. On more than one occasion, the show has referenced the brothers' boy band roots.
10 Donnie and Paul Were On The Rachael Ray Show
Most people know 2011 as the year that Wahlburgers first opened in Hingham, Massachusetts. However, shortly before Wahlburgers opened for business, Donnie and Paul made a special appearance on the Rachael Ray Show. Despite not being on par with his brother in terms of cooking, Donnie still went on the show to cook a special porcini steak dish for Paul. Unbeknownst to Donnie, Rachael had secretly invited Paul onto the show to surprise him. In the end, Paul ended up loving Donnie’s sauce, which made his brother quite happy.
What is most interesting about this scene is that both brothers discussed with Ray about their interest regarding their venture with the Wahlburgers restaurant. In his own words, Donnie explains how the driving force behind the Wahlburgers venture comes out of Paul’s love of food and his desire to make a great burger place in his hometown.
Rachael also mentioned, at the time, that the boys should do a TV special about their restaurant.
In response, both brothers mention that such an idea would be “very possible.” Eventually, after four years in business, the Wahlburgers reality series came to be. It is quite funny considering how on the nose Rachael was about Wahlburgers getting its own series.
9 Paul Is Worth Over A Million
Even prior to the opening of the Wahlburgers restaurant chain, Paul was a cook of extraordinary skill. While his brother’s pursued music and acting, Paul chose to follow his mother’s footsteps and become a chef. According to the website of his restaurant Alma Nove, Paul’s decision to pursue a career in cooking was influenced by the Sunday suppers he shared with his family while growing up.
Paul started his cooking career as a caterer, while he was in still in high school. Eventually, Paul’s experience improved to the point where his skills landed him jobs in several notable restaurants. This includes serving nine years as Executive Chef at Bridgeman’s.
Afterwards, Paul eventually ventured out on is own and opened his first restaurant, Alma Nove. Named in honor of his mother and siblings, it is the ideal place reflecting the best moments of his childhood. In other words, it is the type of place where friends and family come together and experience the joy of sharing a good meal, much how Paul did with his own family when he was younger.
Since starting Wahlburgers, Paul’s reputation as a chef, as well as his financial status, has only continued to grow.
Although not as large as his brothers, Paul’s current net worth is estimated to be around 1.5 million dollars.
8 For Mark, Pope Francis Is The Ultimate Dinner Guest
Over the years, Mark and his brothers have welcomed many celebrity guests at Wahlburgers. Among this list are Justin Bieber, NBA star Jimmy Butler, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as his Daddy’s Home co-star, Will Ferrell.
While the list of celebrity guests is quite impressive, there is still someone that Mark hopes will one day be a guest in his restaurant. A guest so important that Mark worships his very existence.
After his brief time in jail, Mark sought to leave his old gang life behind him. Thankfully, his family was there to help him through some rough times. Mark also received help from a local parish priest.
For Mark and his family, their Catholic faith is one of the most important things in their lives.
Thus, it is no surprise that Mark would hold such high regard for Pope Francis. In a special episode of Wahlburgers, Mark was the host for the Festival of Families, which Pope Francis attended, back in 2015. According to Xposé, Mark describes his encounter with Pope Francis as the “opportunity of a lifetime.” He even received a special rosary blessed by Francis himself.
Hopefully, Mark’s dream will one day come true.
7 Michael Wekerle Owns Part Of The Canadian Rights To Wahlburgers
As the chain is based mainly in the U.S., it used to be quite difficult for Canadians to enjoy the Wahlburgers experience. Most of the time, Canadians would have to travel to the states just to try out one of the restaurants' famous burgers.
However, since 2014, this is no longer an issue. In recent years, Wahlburgers has undergone major expansion projects. As of 2017, Wahlburgers has opened quite a few locations in Canada, including one at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
The Wahlbergs expansion of their restaurant is certainly an ambitious venture. However, it is crucial to note that this venture may not have been possible without the help of Dragon’s Den judge, Michael Wekerle. According to the Toronto Star, Wekerle was a driving force behind Wahlburgers expansion into Canada. It also turns out that Wekerle was also responsible for helping the Wahlbergs with the launch of their first Wahlburgers in Hingham, Mass., back in 2011.
Wekerle saw Wahlburgers expansion as the ideal opportunity to allow Canadians to enjoy a good burger that only the likes of Wahlburgers can produce. Wekerle has shown to be quite dedicated to helping the expansion of the Wahlberg’s burger enterprise. In fact, he and his co-investors own the Canadian rights to Wahlburgers.
Hopefully, in the coming years, Wahlburgers influence will continue to grow across Canada.
6 Paul Had A Crush On His Brother’s Fiancée
Like many families in Hollywood, the Wahlbergs have often been the source of juicy gossip. One of the most intriguing pieces of info regarding the Wahlbergs was Paul’s crush on Donnie’s fiancée, Jenny McCarthy.
When Donnie announced his engagement to Jenny, a former Playmate and co-host for The View, you can be sure that men all over the country were heartbroken by the news. When she first appears in Wahlburgers, in the episode “5 O’Clock is Dinnertime”, she is instantly liked by whole family.
Although Alma was unaware of her celebrity status prior to meeting her, she also takes liking to her. In fact, she likes her so much that she even reveals Donnie’s old nickname, “Baby Donnie”, to her. Furthermore, Paul even names a new dish after her, called “Jenny’s Chicago Dog”. With such a lovable and fun-loving personality, it is not difficult for anyone to develop a secret crush on Jenny.
Even Paul was not immune to her charm -- he reveals on camera that he often felt nervous around her due to a secret crush he had on her at the time.
Since then, Paul’s crush has likely abated, and he continues to welcome Jenny as part of the family.
5 Mark Was Initially Reluctant About The Name
After going through so much trouble to get the licensing for their restaurants name, you would think the Wahlberg brothers would be ecstatic. However, it turns out that good old Marky Mark was not initially on board with the idea.
According to People, Mark was more than willing to help his brother Paul with his new restaurant. However, he did express some concern about the idea of naming the restaurant Wahlburgers. The reason for this? Apparently, Mark’s concerns revolved around brand control.
For over 27 years, Mark worked hard to build up his image and reputation. He felt that allowing the restaurant to be named Wahlburgers could jeopardize the brand he spent so many years building. However, Mark was eventually convinced to go along with the idea. His only condition was that, if they were going through with this, they had to give it everything they had to ensure its success. This includes getting their restaurant its own reality TV show.
Sure enough, Wahlburgers' reputation has skyrocketed in recent years, with a potential ninth season on the way. In 2017, Wahlburgers announced its plans to undergo a massive expansion not just in Canada, but in the Middle East as well, in the next five years.
In the episode "5 O'Clock is Dinnertime", Mark and Paul even talked about opening a Wahlburgers in Beijing, China.
4 They Licensed The Name Of Their Restaurant From Another Chain
Wahlburgers has long been considered an interesting play on the Wahlberg family name. Despite some initial skepticism from Mark, naming the restaurant after themselves certainly proved to be an ingenious move.
While the name of their business is indeed amusing, there is an interesting story behind the naming of the Wahlberg brothers' restaurant. Before they opened their first Wahlburgers, the Wahlbergs still had one final obstacle they needed to remove before they could proceed. To open their restaurant, they had to license the name from another restaurant chain, Tom Wahl’s.
Tom Wahl’s is a successful burger chain with locations primarily around Rochester, New York. Since it first opened in March 1955, Tom Wahl’s has established at least eight other restaurants as of 2011. The chain is mostly known for their root beer, frozen custard, and prized ground steak sandwiches.
According to the New York Post, one of the dishes served at Tom Wahl’s is called The Wahlburger. This situation was problematic because as it turns out, Tom Wahl’s owns the federal trademark for their burger’s name. Thus, the Wahlbergs were required to enter a licensing agreement with Tom Wahl’s. It was only after they paid for the licensing that they could use the name for their restaurant.
3 They were Involved In A Counter Lawsuit
As his long-time dream, Paul Wahlberg has enjoyed the time he’s spent running Wahlburgers alongside his brothers. However, even though they’ve had some good times, they must still uphold their responsibilities as owners. On more than one occasion, they have found themselves involved in some very serious legal issues.
Since it first opened in 2011, Wahlburgers has been issued several lawsuits. One of the biggest involves a falling out between the Wahlbergs, their CEO Rick Vanzura, and their former business partner Edward St. Croix.
According to the Boston Globe, the Wahlbergs and Vanzura filed a suit against St. Croix back in 2012. In the lawsuit, they accused St. Croix of “improper conduct, gross mismanagement, and breach of duties”.
In response, St. Croix filed a suit of his own in January 2013, stating that the original claim of misconduct at Wahlburgers was not his doing, but rather that of the Wahlbergs. St. Croix’s lawsuit states that they were guilty of using company funds for their own private uses outside of business expenses. This includes paying salaries to Paul’s wife as well as his mother, and renting a private jet for Mark’s use and then charging it to their other restaurant, Alma Nove.
If you think this is bad, this case is only one of many lawsuits that the Wahlbergs found themselves involved with.
2 They Were Sued For Stiffing Their Employees
In addition to being accused of misusing funds, the Wahlbergs have also been accused of cheating their employees. According to the Eater, a lawsuit was filed in August 2016 by five employees from a Coney Island franchise. They claimed that the franchise was guilty of committing not just wage theft, but for violating several federal and state labor laws, as far back as the franchise's opening in 2015.
According to the lawsuit, the Coney Island franchise had a regular practice of “shaving” work time for non-exempt employees, paying them for less hours than they actually worked. Furthermore, several employees claimed that they did not receive compensation for working over-time, and that the franchise kept all of the tips made by its employees.
What makes this topic so controversial is that the Wahlbergs were supposedly aware of what was going on.
Even after some employees brought their complaints directly to Paul, no action was taken on behalf of the Wahlbergs to rectify this problem. According to Eater, a Wahlburgers spokesperson claimed that measures were being taken to get to the source of the problem.
For a company that claims to ensure high standards for both their customers and employees, it is pretty shocking that the Wahlbergs would allow such a problem to last for so long.
1 Their former partners sued them
Here's yet another example of the Wahlbergs and their business being involved in another legal debacle. With the growing success of both the Wahlburgers restaurant and TV show, it was only natural that the Wahlbergs would take advantage of the growing popularity.
They quickly announced their plans for expanding their restaurant in locations both inside and outside the U.S. However, not everyone was so eager with the Wahlbergs plan to expand their restaurant chain. The Boston Globe reports that, in February 2017, a lawsuit was filed against the Wahlbergs on behalf of Billy Leonard and Edward St. Croix. Both claim that the Wahlbergs were planning to take advantage of the potentially lucrative franchise opportunities, whilst leaving their partners out of the loop.
Originally, Leonard and St. Croix helped the Wahlbergs open their first restaurant back in 2011. However, since that time, it is obvious that the relationship between them has become increasingly strained. As mentioned in a previous entry, this was not the first time that St. Croix filed a lawsuit against the Wahlbergs.
In the 2017 lawsuit, St. Croix claims that he and Mark had gotten into an altercation while on the set of Wahlburgers, which St. Croix claims was originally his idea. Lawyers representing Wahlburgers disputed the claims, stating that they were false and served only to further Leonard and St. Croix’s personal interests.
What new information did you learn about Wahlburgers? Let us know in the comments!