"I was going to retire and go to Portugal," Ward says. "My kids are 20 and 18. Live a little different life."
Instead, he's got a to-do list. These days, Ward is performing top-to-bottom renovations at The Clarendon Hotel and Spa, the home of his next restaurant project. As of August 1, Ward will be heading up all The Clarendon's dining operations, which will be centered around his restaurant, Fuego Bistro.
The eatery, near Seventh Street and Bethany Home Road, didn't attract many visitors in its first few years, but Fuego turned a corner in 2009 when it appeared on PBS' Check, Please! Business boomed, and Ward opened several other Fuego locations around the Valley.
All have since closed, including the Uptown spot, which Ward shuttered just a few months ago, right before the pandemic hit.
Fuego fans will be glad to know the entire 15-member crew at the former Fuego will be moving to the Clarendon, including the four cooks.
The Fuego menu will carry over, as will the live music program, which consists of a few dozen musical acts that played at Fuego over the years. Inside the main restaurant, they'll have a piano — one Ward himself might sit down at from time to time — as well as sofas in the happy-hour hangout area and a bar serving sangria, margaritas, and mojitos. The outdoor patio will have space for live music along with misters, a vertical garden, painted chairs and tables, and heating lamps for colder months.
Aqua, the aptly named poolside bar and lounge, will serve umbrella-style drinks. At the upstairs room-service kitchen, Board, the food will be served on — you guessed it — boards. The hotel is also building an accompanying rooftop bar where Ward plans to serve classic cocktails come September.
Ward says he can't be stopped now. He says he still has big plans for the restaurant and himself.
"I'm in the toboggan right now, and I'm already going on 74," Ward says. "It's full speed ahead."