Life is full of unexpected moments — they morph into memories that can still give you a feeling of euphoria or take your breath away. Lewes resident Paul Cullen’s unforeseen moment came in the early 1990s, when he landed his dream gig, playing bass guitar for the legendary rock band Bad Company. Within five weeks of his successful audition, Cullen was rocking in front of thousands of screaming fans.
“It’s unexplainable. The feeling of getting ready to go out and play for a huge crowd. When you walk out there, everything’s calm. And then, the lights go down and the place goes nuts,” said Cullen.
Life moves pretty fast when you’re on tour with a rock band. Cullen toured the United States and the world, waking up in a different city each morning, wondering what new adventure or experience the day would bring.
“It was so surreal, at certain points, especially the whole first month. I’d wake up in different places and think, where am I? Oh, I’m in Indiana, and oh yeah, I’m in Bad Company,” he said.
Cullen’s most memorable performance took place in Buffalo, his hometown, back in 1991. He saw his first concert in the city as a kid and was thrilled to perform in front of 16,000 people.
Living on a tour bus was incredible. Cullen met, or partied with, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, George Harrison from the Beatles and Boy George. He was also featured in an MTV music video filmed at the site of the hit TV show M*A*S*H.
While touring with Bad Company in Europe, Cullen found time in between shows to sample some of the finest foods and wine Europe had to offer. It reignited a passion for fine food that would help guide him to a new career after his days of partying around the world were over.
According to Cullen, “We used to say when we went on tour, the worst thing about getting on a tour bus was getting off at the end.” Eventually, Cullen had to hop off the tour bus and return home to Buffalo to a slower pace of life.
On a particularly cold and snowy winter day, one of Cullen’s friends called him in Buffalo and invited him to come play bass in Delaware. Cullen jumped at the chance to get away and fell in love with the Delaware coast. He moved to Sussex County 18 years ago, is happily married and has transformed himself from a rock star into, perhaps, the coolest chef on the East Coast.
The bass player grew up in an Italian family and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. His passion for delicious food was ignited as a child watching his grandmother Tagliaferro prepare traditional Italian dishes in his upstate New York home. His interest in fine dining blossomed further while he was touring in Europe. He sampled different wines and unique foods.
After his days with Bad Company were over, Cullen frequently cooked for his family and friends — he’s also a certified sommelier. While appearing on a local radio station, Cullen told the hosts about a surprise party he threw for a friend — he cooked a gourmet meal and then played a private concert for guests, who were blown away. The owners of Seacrets in Ocean City happened to be listening that morning and hired him for his first paying gig.
Cullen now travels to hundreds of homes per year, preparing delicious Italian meals, showcasing incredible wines and educating diners about his fresh ingredients and cooking techniques. Of course, he serenades guests after the meal is finished.
Dinner with Cullen is a unique experience. As you can imagine, there is nothing stuffy or overly formal about Cullen. He’s laid back, fun and outgoing. Cullen said he loves teaching people about Italian food and he loves telling his dinner guests the story of his extraordinary career.
Food is just one part of Cullen’s transformation. After 26 years of playing bass, he decided it was time to switch to the guitar. “As a bass player, I didn’t have a lot of control over my career, which I didn’t really like. I switched to a nylon-string guitar. I started writing my own songs and then released my first solo CD in 2007, called Dreamdance.” Cullen has released several additional wine-centric albums since 2008.
Cullen’s combination of fine dining, education and entertainment are keeping him very busy. He travels across the country and as far away as Costa Rica to entertain clients. “The fun part is meeting new people and touching people. I get to touch all their senses if you think about it; smell, taste, hearing, it’s everything.”
In 2014, Cullen booked 15 events. In 2018, he booked 203. Dinner and a show with Cullen are in high demand, but you don’t have to hire him to cook for you to enjoy his gourmet foods.
In 2018, Cullen opened Paul’s Kitchen along Cedar Grove Road in Lewes. He hosts a Sunday market on-site, where visitors can sample and purchase his homemade sausage, pesto, olive oil and other Italian specialties. The 300-square-foot kitchen is quaint and adjacent to a private patio, which can accommodate private groups. The former rocker turned sommelier also hosts private culinary-inspired trips to Italy. His private reserve label Tuscan sangiovese wine is also available at numerous local restaurants.
Cullen’s transformation is ongoing. He’s not sure what the future holds, but everyone who meets him, hears his music
and eats his food is sure to be inspired.
“I would have never known five years ago that I would be doing what I’m doing for a living. After dinner, people hug me at the end of the night and they’re thanking me for what an amazing time it was, and I’m actually thanking them back because I had an amazing time, too.”
Learn more about Cullen and his cullinary skills by visiting www.paulcullen.rocks.