A Life: Paul Wright “Shultz” Langhans, 1961 – 2023

Paul

Paul "Shultz" Langhans and Tammy Christian were married on May 20, just 10 days before his death from cancer. Those pictured include, right to left: Alison Pearson, Jeff Pearson, Leeann Lyman, Joyce Maura, Reg Langhans, Debra Langhans, Harold Eaton, Christian Langhans, Linda Caruso, Mike Langhans, Dave Langhans, Judy Langhans, Valerie Wang, Jim Langhans, Jay Caruso, Shultz Langhans, Casey Caruso and Nick Langhans. (Family photograph) family photograph

Brothers Dave Langhans, Tom Langhans and Shultz Langhans pose for a photo at Fenway Park in Boston on Sept. 8, 2014. (Family photograph)

Brothers Dave Langhans, Tom Langhans and Shultz Langhans pose for a photo at Fenway Park in Boston on Sept. 8, 2014. (Family photograph) Family photograph

Shultz Langhans and his mom, the late Patricia Langhans, hug on April 1, 2011, Shultz’s 50th birthday. (Family photograph)

Shultz Langhans and his mom, the late Patricia Langhans, hug on April 1, 2011, Shultz’s 50th birthday. (Family photograph) Family photograph

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 10-09-2023 5:26 AM

WOODSTOCK — Charles Andrew’s first job out of high school in the early 2000s was working as a dishwasher at the Prince & the Pauper restaurant on Elm Street.

At first, Andrew, now 38, didn’t much like his boss, Paul Wright “Shultz” Langhans.

“Shultz had a very hard personality,” Andrew said in a recent phone interview. “Like a stern father figure.”

But over time, Andrew — who worked his way up to executive chef at the Prince & the Pauper over nearly 20 years there — came to see “the wisdom in what he was trying to teach me.

“Everything I ever learned about cooking I pretty much learned from Shultz. (He was) an absolute rock star in the kitchen. When something needed to be done, he was always the right man for the job. He was like a soldier.”

Shultz, whose German father gave him the moniker early in life, was a Woodstock native who began his restaurant career washing dishes at Bentley’s, a Woodstock restaurant that closed in 2019. He later worked his way up to serve as head chef at some of the Upper Valley’s most popular restaurants. Shultz died of cancer in May at the age of 62.

The perception of Shultz as a “rock star” extended beyond his work in the kitchen. His niece, Casey Caruso, who described her uncle as “my hero,” as well as a “rock star,” remembers being sent from her home in Barnard to visit him in Seattle in the mid-1990s, when she was 14 and struggling with life in high school.

“Mom knew that the antidote would be to send me to Seattle,” Caruso said.

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She came home with her first tattoo and an etching from Jimi Hendrix’s grave.

“That was my therapy,” she said. “He always reupped my soul. The love and the light that he just showered me with was a huge part of how I was able to become who I am today.”

Shultz, born on April Fool’s Day in 1961, was the next to last of the eight children of Patricia and Raymond Langhans Sr. The family lived on Eaton Place, across Route 4 from the Woodstock Recreation Center.

“It was pretty chaotic,” said Linda Caruso, Casey’s mother, the clan’s eldest child and the only daughter. “There were seven boys.”

They lived in one side of a duplex, and their grandparents lived on the other side. The neighborhood was close-knit, and the children played football on neighbors’ lawns.

Information also would travel fast. If a child got in trouble in town, news of it would beat the child home, Jim Langhans, the fourth of the siblings, said.

Shultz was a bright child and was reading the newspaper before he started school, Jim Langhans said.

Langhans said he remembers Shultz in part for “just how precocious he was as he was coming up. He had no fear. He would address our grandfather in a style that none of us would have dared to. In our family, he would be the one to call the kettle black.”

Food preparation was a part of their early life. Their grandmother cooked everything from scratch, Linda Caruso said. Five of the siblings became chefs.

The family remains close-knit.

“It’s unusual how close all of the siblings are,” Linda Caruso said. “We were raised to cheer each other on, celebrate each others’ accomplishments. … Our mom insisted on it.”

At 14, Shultz started washing dishes at Bentley’s to make some money, Jim Langhans said. “If we wanted spending money, it wasn’t handed to us, for sure,” Langhans said.

He stuck with it because of the mentors he discovered along the way.

“He got to work with some pretty incredible people,” Langhans said. “I think he recognized that.”

At Bentley’s Shultz learned from the chef there, Peter Gaylor, how to handle knives, chop and dice, and then learned to make sauces and soups.

Shultz’s widow, Tammy Christian-Langhans, said she thinks he was drawn to cooking because “he could use his hands. He wasn’t a school person.”

Instead, he “loved to study recipes and that kind of stuff,” Christian-Langhans said. “Being in the classroom wasn’t his kind of thing. He wanted to live, and that’s exactly what he did.”

From Bentley’s he moved on to the Rumbleseat Rathskellar, a Woodstock restaurant that is no longer in business. It was then in the mid-1970s that Jim Reiman first met Shultz. Reiman’s career has included co-owning the Prince & the Pauper and launching what is now Three Tomatoes. Reiman described Shultz as a “consummate professional” who was known for producing food that was “on time, hot and good.”

Beyond that, Reiman said what he remembers best about Shultz was his laugh, which he described as the “most infectious laugh of anyone I ever met. Even when things would go topsy-turvy, (Shultz) could bring it all back by lightening the situation.”

He was an “amazing spirit and a good-hearted guy,” Reiman said.

In the early 1980s, when Shultz was in his early 20s, he went to work at the Prince & the Pauper, which was owned by Chris Balcer from 1981 to 2015.

“He was very curious, and he was a hard-working guy,” Balcer said. He showed “a lot of interest, a lot of dedication, soaked up everything that I could show him and teach him.”

The restaurant expanded, growing from 48 to 78 seats and from five to seven days a week. Eventually, Shultz took over as sous chef and then he was in charge of the kitchen on the nights Balcer wasn’t there.

Shultz subsequently went on to become the head chef at Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee. He traveled to Ireland to learn about Irish cooking.

“He really put that restaurant on the map,” Balcer said. “… From the culinary standpoint, Shultz elevated it. … If I had a night (off), that’s the first place I would go. He took a lot of pride in what he did.”

Shultz’s obituary notes that his Vermont Cheddar Soup recipe was included in Pia and Simon Pearce’s book, “A Way of Living.” But Andrew said Shultz told him it was a different soup, mushroom leek, that put Simon Pearce on the map.

“There were a few dishes that he was very passionate about,” Andrew said, in addition to the soup, he also felt strongly about spring rolls he made later after he returned to the Prince & the Pauper.

“You could not overcook those veggies — if they were overcooked, they were mush,” Andrew said.

Before returning to the Prince & the Pauper, Shultz spent some time working in kitchens out in Seattle. The “hip vegan scene” there and the farm-to-table movement influenced Shultz’s cooking, Balcer said. He brought what he learned back to the Upper Valley.

For a time he worked at Monsoon, an Asian bistro started by Reiman and Robert Meyers, in Centerra Plaza in Lebanon.

“We were trying to find our way with what kind of Asian food were people looking for,” Reiman said. “Shultzy had a great repertoire of dishes.”

After Monsoon, in the late 1990s, with a friend Shultz started Wild Grass Restaurant in what is now the Worthy Kitchen off Route 4 on the eastern side of Woodstock. When that didn’t work out, he returned to the Prince & the Pauper.

It was around the time that Shultz opened Wild Grass that he reconnected with Tammy Christian, a Woodstock Union High School graduate who returned to the area after 21 years in the military. Christian was working several part-time jobs at the time, including at Ace Hardware, next to the Woodstock Police station. Jim Langhans was a co-worker, and Christian and Shultz had their first date on May 14, 2000.

“The rest, as they say, is history,” Tammy Christian-Langhans said.

In his off time, Shultz enjoyed listening to music, fishing and spending time with his family. But he often worked 60-hour weeks. At home, he liked to keep meals simple.

The “funniest thing that he loved to eat at home was Shake ’n Bake pork chops,” Christian-Langhans said. It was “no fuss. It was simple. It was tasty, and he loved it. He just loved using food as a way to express himself.”

Christian-Langhans said Shultz made a great eggs Benedict, “one of my favorite things that he made.”

Jim Langhans said his favorite dishes of Shultz’ were jerk chicken and crispy sage leaves, which are deep fried.

“They’re out of this world,” he said. “Nothing you would imagine.”

Shultz left the Prince & the Pauper when standing for such long hours became difficult, in part because of lingering pain from a leg injury incurred in Seattle. After leaving restaurant work, he cooked at Merten’s House, a nursing home on Route 4 across from the Woodstock Recreation Center, between Eaton Place and Rose Hill.

There, he fed many of the people he knew growing up, his sister Linda Caruso said. She described his time at Mertens as a “very sweet ending” to his career.

It was the leg pain that brought him to see a vascular surgeon in January. It was then that he was diagnosed with cancer.

“We were told he would have up to a year, that was being hopeful,” Caruso said. “It just spread so fast.”

Just 10 days before Shultz died, the family gathered on May 20 to celebrate his marriage to Christian-Langhans. His brother David secretly made the trip from Washington state, and Casey Caruso performed the ceremony.

“We made sure he had a chair,” Christian-Langhans said. “When we said our vows, I knelt down to him. He could see my face and my eyes and my tears.”

The family is planning another gathering to honor Shultz and watch his beloved Washington Commanders take on the New York Giants the weekend before Thanksgiving. A larger gathering with Shultz’s requested “rock&roll/food/fun” will be planned for a later date.

Caruso said she plans to give Shultz’s boning knife to one of the chefs he mentored along the way and also to create a scholarship in his honor for students pursuing culinary arts: “I want Shultz to live on.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.