Walter Scheib, the 61-year-old former White House executive chef who had been missing in New Mexico’s rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains for more than a week, was discovered dead late Sunday night by a search and rescue crew.
Scheib’s body was found nearly two miles from the Yerba Canyon Trail head in Taos, N.M., a town some 70 miles from Santa Fe.
“I know the trail itself has a pretty steep incline,” New Mexico State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Liz Armijo told The Washington Post. “It took a long time to get the body down. It was a very rugged, very steep and very slow-going process.”
Scheib was last seen setting out for a hike June 13. Days later, local police found his vehicle parked at the head of the Yerba Canyon Trail, a four-mile path near Taos that ascends steadily, gaining 3,700 feet in elevation, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The area is known for what the Forest Service describes as “some of the best trout fishing” in New Mexico. Local news reports said police believed he had intended to fish there.
Data from his cellphone showed his last updated location was in the search area on the afternoon of June 13, according to a police news release.
For six days, authorities searched on the ground and via helicopter. Police said the body was found Sunday night about 1.7 miles from the base of the trail and identified by a family member.
Scheib served as the White House executive chef for 11 years under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He earned his reputation in Washington for his New American-style cuisine, cooking for, among others, White House guests Nelson Mandela, Boris Yeltsin, Princess Diana and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“I loved working for the Bushes and the Clintons,” he told The Post in a 2006 interview. “It’s the greatest honor a chef can have to work for the first families.”
Scheib later worked as a food consultant, author and speaker, creating his own corporation called the American Chef to market his private culinary business. In 2006, he appeared on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef.” The next year, he co-wrote a book called “White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen.”
Armijo said Scheib’s body may have had minor scrapes and bruises but nothing that would indicate a struggle or attack. “It just looks like it was an unfortunate circumstance,” she said.
The body was transported to the state medical examiner’s office. The autopsy is scheduled for Monday.