By Natalie Manning September/October 2008
Chef Ryan Adams is certainly not one’s typical interview, “I am not nine-to-five, I don’t dress corporate, I don’t act corporate and I speak my mind. I don’t really like people and I judge them. I judge them on their attitudes though, not on their looks,” he pauses, “I mean look at me, I get judged all the time,” gesturing to his left arm elaborately decorated with tattoos from his shoulder along down to his wrist. Perking up, he shows off his latest tattoo of a Weber Barbeque on his upper left chest; a tattoo he displays proudly with a wide grin. On his right arm, a lone blue star signals the near completion of his left arm and the beginning of his next ink-filled project.Though Adam’s manner and style is considered unconventional, his expertise is found to be undeniable. As the Corporate Chef for Culinary Adventures, Adams has roughly 400 people working underneath him; and with more then 10 years with the company, he has successfully opened 25 restaurants to date. Joking, he expressed how it is easier to list what he doesn’t do rather than what he does do, “I’m a jack of all trades and master of none.” He then rattles off a laundry list of duties with everything from the menu development to the construction consulting, to ordering napkins and tablecloths, “Basically I am part shrink, handyman, blacksmith, purchaser, accountant and administrator.” So what keeps him going? “Coffee and alcohol,” he laughs. “I’m a workaholic. My co-workers say I am my own worst enemy and my own best friend. I work like no one else and I hold everyone else to the same standard.”Looking back, he remembers the beginning to his cooking career; during a summer that was too hot to skateboard in and too flat to surf on, he started watching chef profiles on TV and simply, began to cook, “My grandmother had a huge garden – summer corn, watermelon, and a 120-year-old lemon tree.” Now with his own garden, Adams enjoys experimenting with flavors at home.
Not surprisingly, Adams identifies more with Anthony Bordian, a hardnose, tell-it-like-it-is chef, as opposed to the mild mannered Emeril or Bobby Flay. Great Taste has no doubt in that as we admire Chef Ryan’s highly opinionated and brutally honest personality.
His take on other topics- OC’s Change In Style, “I see high-end Mexican food getting huge and American Gastro Pubs blowing up.” Culinary Students, “They see Top Chef’ and Emeril’ and they think they are going to be rock stars. They don’t realize the blood, sweat, tears and failed relationships it takes. They talk a big game and they can’t even saute a fish.” BOH vs. FOH, “Front of the house just doesn’t care about the job as much. Anyone working behind the house loves it. They would set up a cot in the pantry if they could.” Chowhound.com, “Oh they are brutal and I love it!” When asked about how he feels about big guns like Charlie Palmer and David Myers moving to Orange County he comments, “I think it’s good for Orange County. It’s a step up. Ten years ago you couldn’t sell foie gras here to save your life.”
We asked Adams if he has any advice for wannabe chefs and simply put, “Don’t do it.” Persisting for a more in depth answer, he stood strong, “Don’t do it!” He laughs, and then concedes, “You have to own the job, otherwise you will never love it or care about it.” After ten years with the company, it is obvious that Chef Ryan owns the job; with still putting in 60 to 70 hour work weeks, he still has the same excitement and passion for food that he had fifteen years ago…it is clear that the job as Corporate Chef is a demanding one, however, Chef Ryan wouldn’t have it any other way.
CHEF RYAN ADAMS in the Spolight
What is your favorite:
KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: Japanese carbon steel chefs’ knife
CONDIMENT OR SPICE: Chimichurri, fennel pollen and Italian parsely
RAW INGREDIENT: Fish
JUNK FOOD: In and Out Double-Double
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST COOKING RELATED MEMORY? Rolling out cookie dough for my grandma because I got in trouble for throwing rocks at the neighbor kids
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES? Surfing, hot rods, gardening, and cooking
WHAT WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Clean, straightforward, and simple
WHO ARE YOUR CULINARY HEROES? Eric Greenspan and Florant Moreau because they took a risk and are making it
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN THE KITCHEN? That you get to cook and create all day. You don’t!
IF YOU WERE NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? Restaurant Designer
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: Ongoing (2 years formally)
SCHOOL ATTENDED: California Culinary
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Dinner: 5.00pm – 9.00pm Sunday & Monday
5.00pm – 10.00pm Tuesday – Thursday
5.00pm – 11.00pm Friday & Saturday
Spicy Fish Stew With Vegetable Salad
1 ea Lobster Claw and Knuckle in Shell
2 ea U-15 Shrimp-peeled and de-veined
5 ea Mussels-cleaned
5 ea Manila Clams
6 oz Fresh Fish (Ahi and Seabass)-cut in 2 oz pieces
2 ea U-10/20 Scallops
12 oz Spicy Lobster Broth
1 T Garlic-minced
1 T Lemon Grass-Sliced 1/4″
1 T Ginger-Sliced 1/8″
2 ea Fresno Chiles-Slice 1/8″ thick
2 T Cilantro Leaves
1/2 C Vegetable Salad prepared (see below)
1 oz Lime Vinaigrette prepared (see below)
1 T Oil Olive/Canola Blend
Heat a medium saute pan over high heat, when hot add the oil, mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster, and garlic. Saute 1 minute and then add the broth, lemongrass, ginger, chilies and cook 2 minutes. Add fish scrap and scallops, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer. Cook 4 minutes more. Then add the cilantro and toss. Pour contents of pan into a large deep bowl. Arrange mussels and clams around evenly spaced, with other garnish in center of bowl. Next combine the lime vinaigrette and Vegetable Salad in a small metal bowl and toss to coat evenly, when complete pile the salad atop the stew and serve.
Spicy Lobster Broth
Yield: 1.5 Gallons
1 1/2 gals Lobster Stock-prepared (cold) (see below)
1 C Orange Juice-fresh squeezed
3 T Thai Red Curry Paste
3 oz Ginger-Sliced 1/4″
1 t Corriander Seeds
6 ea Fresno Chiles-Sliced 1/4″
2 ea Serrano Chiles-Sliced 1/4″
1/4 C Kaffir Lime Leaves
1/4 C Lemon Grass-Sliced 1/4″
1/2 t Kosher Salt
1 T Fish Sauce
In a large stainless steel stock pot combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiled, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a medium strainer into a large plastic bucket and chill rapidly. When cooled cover, label and refrigerate.
Note: Can be frozen up to 1 month.
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
1/4 C Shallot-minced
2 C Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 C Rice Wine Vinegar
2 C Olive Oil, 10/90 Blend
1/2 t Fresh Cracked Black pepper
1 t Salt
1/2 T Light Brown Sugar
Place the lime juice into a small stainless pot and simmer over low heat until reduced by half. In a medium metal mixing bowl combine the lime juice, rice vinegar, shallots, oil, pepper, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine evenly. Once complete transfer to a plastic container, cover, label and store until needed.
1 ea Red Onions-peeled & julienne 1/8″
1 C Carrots-Peeled and julienne 1/8″X3″
1 C Leeks-julienne 1/8″X3″
1 C Celery Hearts-shaved with a peeler
1 C Green Onions-Sliced
2 ea Red Bell Pepper-julienne 1/8″X3″
3 ea Heart of Palm-julienne 1/8″X3″
In a medium metal mixing bowl combine all of the above ingredients and toss to combine evenly. Once complete, transfer contents into a plastic container, cover, label and store until use.