Best Bets: Millsboro's Cullen has a taste for tunes

By Craig Horleman
Posted 1/14/22

After years as a touring musician, most notably in the classic rock band Bad Company, Paul Cullen is now getting standing ovations for more than just his guitar licks.

In recent years, Mr. Cullen, …

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Best Bets: Millsboro's Cullen has a taste for tunes


After years as a touring musician, most notably in the classic rock band Bad Company, Paul Cullen is now getting standing ovations for more than just his guitar licks.

In recent years, Mr. Cullen, a resident of Millsboro, has combined both his love of music and his love of wine and food and turned it into a bustling dynasty of succulence and sound.

Since 2014 he’s prepared in-home meals for almost 12,000 guests, averaging around 200 events a year. A private concert follows each dinner. Mr. Cullen has brought his kitchen knives and guitar to Costa Rica, Tuscany and throughout the United States.

He became a certified Level II sommelier in 2018, deepening his love and knowledge of Italian cuisine on repeated trips to Italy by cooking with local chefs, sipping wine with winemakers and strolling the vineyards. He has also performed with Italian musicians.

In addition to in-home dining, Mr. Cullen owns Paul’s Kitchen, an Italian specialty store and brunch spot in Lewes, the adjoining Room at Cedar Grove, where he welcomes touring musicians for shows during which he serves a full-course meal, and Unplugged & Uncorked, a wine company.

He also has a line of balsamic vinegars, olive oil and spices.

If that’s not enough, Mr. Cullen has started the charity Paul Kares to help aspiring musicians and those interested in hospitality careers and he’s working on a YouTube show, which may be coming to a TV near you soon.

“And that’s why I wake up at three-thirty in the morning going ‘Oh my God, what am I gonna do today?’” Mr. Cullen joked.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Mr. Cullen grew up on cuisine made by his Italian grandmother, Elsie Tagliaferro, and his mother, Nancy.

“It’s just insane the popularity (of the home dinners) and then just what people think of it. I built it all on word of mouth and I never advertised. In the very beginning, I would give away dinners for nonprofit, live auction stuff. But other than that, I didn’t spend any money on advertising because people can’t wait to tell people how cool it is. And I didn’t even know it would be that cool,” he said.

Mr. Cullen said the dinners can be as informational as they are entertaining.

“It’s really fun because I think people don’t know what to expect when I go in there and talk about the traditional dishes that I make from my grandmother and Italy and then I pair wines that they’ve maybe never had before. I talk about the vineyards that I use for the wine,” he said.

“And then everybody wants to know about my background. It’s been 30 years removed from the band or close to it anyways. They find it fascinating that I played in the band and they want to know what it’s like to be in a rock band. It’s a whole package.”

For the past four years, Mr. Cullen has had the facility in Lewes, which hosts Paul’s Kitchen, an Italian market and brunch spot and also the Room at Cedar Grove for concerts and dinner shows.

“It was just a kitchen and a patio. The kitchen was 300 square feet. The patio was 350. So, I started with 650 square feet and now I have the whole building, which is 2,370 square feet,” he said.

The adjoining Room at Cedar Grove has seen acts such as Robert Randolph, Tony Levin from the Peter Gabriel band and Erin Dickins from Manhattan Transfer.

The shows take place once a week but Mr. Cullen hopes that number will soon increase to six per month.

“It’s always dinner and a concert so it’s like a supper club. It always includes food and drinks, because I wanted it to be more special like that,” he said.

You may even find Mr. Cullen performing on stage at times.

“There is a guy that used to play with the Little River Band, Tony Sciuto, he moved to the peninsula. He reached out to me about four or five months ago. We did a Little River Band night. We did Australian food and wine because that’s where they’re from. It was really fun and he wanted to play Bad Company songs so we would do a Little River Band song and then we would do a Bad Company song,” he said.

The next big show at The Room at Cedar Grove on Jan. 27 will feature The Dirty Grass Players.

The Baltimore-based band performs what’s known as new grass, a modern interpretation of bluegrass music.

“They do some cool stuff like versions of Pink Floyd songs. They’re super cool,” Mr. Cullen said.

While the band performs, guests will enjoy a multi-course dinner paired with complementary wines.

The evening will start at 6:30 p.m., and the cost is $95. Visit here for tickets.

Partial proceeds will benefit Paul Kares, the 501c3 that Mr. Cullen and Jim Rivette founded to support aspiring chefs and musicians.

“It’s all about the culinary and musical arts. So basically, it’s Paul Cullen paying it forward and doing whatever we can to help young adults and people that are interested in the two businesses that I’ve already made a living at,” he said.

Recently, he visited Sussex Academy in Georgetown to deliver 10 sets of new classroom bells and play music with them.

Mr. Cullen’s most recent project is a program called “Tune Your Palate.” It combines Mr. Cullen in the kitchen and music and conversation with local artists.

The pilot for the show is available on YouTube and features Jake Banaszak of lower case blues.

“I really can’t say too much but I have a major local TV station wanting to partner together and put it on their station. So I actually sent it off to him, and he came back with some great suggestions. So we’re going to start working on our next one here in the next week or so,” he said.

So if it’s a choice of music or food, which one does Mr. Cullen find more rewarding?

“I just like making people happy whether it’s through their bellies, their ears, their nose, their eyes. But it’s equally as fun to play a concert afterwards in their house by their fireplace because I have their undivided attention and they really focus in on the songs — my originals and the stories about Bad Company. Why they wrote this song and this song was this and that sort of thing. So it’s a great way to end the evening,” he said.

For more information on all of Mr. Cullen’s endeavors, visit here.

Middle 8 at Dover Art League

On Saturday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present their monthly coffee house concert in their new venue — the Dover Art League, 21 W. Loockerman St, in Dover, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

This concert marks the beginning of a new relationship between Delaware Friends of Folk and the Dover Art League. A Nanticoke land acknowledgment will precede the performances.

This month’s show features the Camden duo Middle 8. The acoustic pairing of Josh Zimmerman on vocals, keys, and guitar and Elyse Nehrbas on flute, vocals, and keys presents a show packed with originals and their own particular take on songs from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to jazz standards. The pair is influenced by a range of genres and time periods.

Opening the evening will be New Castle County resident Simon Purchase James. Of Nanticoke heritage, Mr. Simon creates interactive musical events that draw out the beauty in every voice. Specializing in song-leading, he incorporates teaching new and old songs into the concert experience.

Admission is $7 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $10 for non-members, teens are half-price, and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available. Due to the omicron spike, full vaccination is recommended and face masks are required.

Art in liquid form

Celebrating the creative magic at the intersection of art and ales, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Off-Centered Art Series is a yearly collection of four limited-edition beers featuring artwork by a different collaborating artist.

The brewery’s featured artist for 2022 is Max Mahn, a well-known printmaker and illustrator from Missoula, Montana. He kicks off his Off-Centered Art Series residency with label artwork for the brewery’s new beer, Where the Wild Hops Are, a rustic, unfiltered IPA brewed with four wild-derived hop varieties. Now available nationwide on taps and in bottles.

Throughout his career, Mr. Mahn has worked with clients of all shapes and sizes, from pizzerias and film festivals to newspapers and breweries, and his favorite, bands. During this time, he has created gig posters for the likes of many notable acts, including My Morning Jacket, Ween, Wilco, Disco Biscuits and more.

Where the Wild Hops Are (6.5% ABV) is a complex IPA brewed with Zappa, Amarillo, Comet and Sabro hops and blended with a touch of wild ale aged for four years in French Oak barrels. The result is a blend of citrus meets dank, rounded out by just a bit of wild funk.

Mr. Mahn’s label artwork for Where the Wild Hops Are sets an ominously mysterious tone, featuring an old school box trap baited by nothing other than a large hop cone.

To learn more about Dogfish Head and its Off-Centered Art Series, visit here.

Introducing AP Theater

The Kent County Theatre Guild recently announced a new program for teenagers of Kent County.

This year, 2022 brings the Apprenticeship Program Theater (AP Theater) for teens ages 13 to 19.

This is a free opportunity for teens with no background or limited exposure to theater and experienced teens to get hands-on training and learning as they create a show for the Patchwork Playhouse stage.

The program focuses on all aspects of theatre from stage performance, backstage management, and light and sound.

Each show takes teens from audition through rehearsals and tech week to a three-show performance to show off their new skills.

The first show will be “Do-Overs” by Gwendolyn Kandt.

At a local Cajun restaurant called Pappa Jeaux’s, a young man is getting a bite to eat while he ponders what to do with his first commission check. Soon, the restaurant fills up with more customers: four former high school friends who are reconnecting; a new marketing manager from New York City meeting his Louisiana boss for the first time; a lonely girl with a lot on her mind; and a charming Southern waitress with hidden problems of her own.

Auditions will be cold reads from the script.

Show dates will be March 24-26 with auditions Jan. 25 and 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Patchwork Playhouse, 140 Roosevelt Ave., Dover.

For more information, visit here.

Songwriters show canceled

Speaking of the Patchwork Playhouse, in our lookahead to 2022 column, we told you about an upcoming Songwriters Circle show at the theater featuring Jim Rezac, Danielle Johnson and Lauren Kuhne set for Feb. 5.

Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, that show has been canceled.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the reboot of the horror film “Scream” and the animated film “Belle”

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