We had the opportunity to interview Chef Adam Ross who is currently delighting palates at the Aspen Social Club. We’ve had his dishes at Amalia (by the Dreams Hotel in NYC) and were really impressed by the balanced blending of flavors and spices. The Aspen Social Club is quite different than Amalia. The Aspen was designed to evoke an Aspen ski lodge, but in a very stylized New York kind of way. The food served by Chef Ross is mostly small plates of American comfort food with a “Colorado flair” which means lots of southwestern specialties and game. Picture juicy bison sliders, venison sausage, duck quesadillas, and brook trout tacos, Hungry yet? How about maybe some coupons on top of that? Well, for now you’ll have to settle with what he told us today:
FriendsEAT: Where have you cooked in the past?
Chef Adam Ross: In New York, Amalia in Manhattan and Cocotte in Brooklyn. Before that I was in Boston, where I worked at Blue Ginger, Rialto, No. 9 Park, and Salts.
FE: Did you grow up cooking?
CAR: Yes, I was always hanging around the kitchen from a young age. I come from a large Italian family; all our holidays were centered around creating a great feast. My mother, father and both of my grandmothers were all great cooks so I guess you could say I was inspired by them. The first things I learned to make on my own were chocolate chip cookies and omelettes.
FE:Who influenced your cooking the most?
CAR: Professionally speaking, my style has been shaped by all the great chefs I worked under. Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger) taught me about the importance of contrasts in a dish. Jody Adams (Rialto) opened my eyes to all the cuisines of the Mediterranean, and showed me how to elevate a traditional, humble peasant dish to something elegant and beautiful to look at. Barbara Lynch (No 9 Park) taught me to constantly strive for perfection. Gabriel Bremer (Salts) demonstrated how to give a dish a whimsical twist, without losing focus on the flavors.
FE: What made you decide to become a Chef?
CAR: I always loved to cook, but originally I thought it was only a hobby. I actually went to college for physics; I thought I wanted to be a scientist. But when I got a job as a researcher, I found the day-to-day reality of the life of a scientist to be excruciatingly tedious – although I’m still fascinated by the wonders of the universe. Anyway, I had always had this idea that the life of a chef was glamorous and more fun than what I was doing – so I went looking for a job in a restaurant. I was lucky to land in the kitchen of a great chef, Ming Tsai, who said that he didn’t mind that I had zero experience, as long as I had a desire to learn and a good attitude. And it was hard work, but I was right – it was a lot more fun than what I was doing before.
FE: What misconceptions do people have when coming into the field?
CAR: That they’re going to end up on TV, or as a famous chef. For every Mario Batali or Bobby Flay, there are a thousand equally (if not more) talented chefs who you’ve never heard of.
FE: And a tip for those who are just getting into the field?
CAR: Start at the bottom. You really have to spend years laboring as a line cook to learn all the things you need to be a good chef, to run a kitchen well. The important thing is to work in a great kitchen, even if you’re only peeling potatoes. You’re going to pick up the skills, little by little. And move around. Learn everything you can, then move to another restaurant and continue. Learn all the stations. Even pastry.
FE: What are your three favorite kitchen tools?
CAR: I have an 8″ chefs knife from Kai, a Japanese brand but a Western-style blade. It’s super light, but more comfortable in my hand than Global knives. I love my Vita-Prep blender, it’s more versatile than you’d think. And I’m just beginning to explore the potential of my PacoJet
FE: Can you tell us about the funniest thing to happen in your kitchen?
CAR: At Blue Ginger, when I was first starting out, we had this stand-up cabinet smoker. We were going to make a smoked duck salad, I think. The sous-chef loaded up the smoker with, like, a dozen ducks, and some wood chips, and like in those Ron Popeil infomercials, “set it and forget it.” Well, the massive amount of fat that was rendering off the ducks started to smoke, and pretty soon the whole cabinet was on fire. We had three fire trucks outside the restaurant, and I remember the fire chief warning the chef not to even think about serving those ducks to the customers. After the fire was put out and the commotion died down, I remember the chef pulling the black smoking skin off of one of the ducks and nibbling at the meat, “Actually, this is pretty good.” I tihnk it ended up as staff meal.
FE: And what is your favorite thing to cook?
CAR: My favorite food to make is fresh pasta, because you really need to use your hands and it takes some skill to have it come out right. Also because it’s so versatile, it’s a base that you can take in so many directions with all kinds of other ingredients.
FE: When you’re home, what will we find you eating?
CAR: Mostly take-out, actually. In my Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn there’s an awesome jerk chicken shack that’s open late. Where my girlfriend lives in Astoria there’s a Chinese place that has the best scallion pancakes, not to mention all the other Greek, Balkan, Japanese, Mexican, and other places in the area. This is why I love living in New York City.
FE: What is your favorite cookbook?
CAR: Bugialli on Pasta, by Giuliano Bugialli is a great reference. Also, not technically a cookbook, but On Food And Cooking by Harold McGee, because there’s still a scientist in me that’s fascinated by all that.
FE: What is the one thing that you pride yourself in?
CAR: Respect for the ingredients and the equipment. I insist on absolute freshness, and proper techniques for handling and storing the food to keep them fresh for as long as possible. And not abusing the equipment. I take more offense at a cook using a knife to open a can of tomatoes, for instance, because he’s too lazy to look for the can opener, than I would at a cook showing up late.
Chef Ross’ Yellowfin Tuna Deviled Eggs, from Aspen Social Club
1 Tbsp mustard
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp paprika
1/4 lb. fresh yellowfin tuna
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp wasabi tobbiko (optional)
Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, immediately shut off the heat and let them sit for 8 minutes. Remove from the water and cool off in an ice bath. Peel the eggs, cut in half lengthwise and remove yolks.
Combine the yolks with mustard, mayonnaise, paprika, and salt to taste. Spoon into a pastry bag with a star tip.
Cut the tuna into 1/4″ dice. Mix with soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Fill the egg yolks with the marinated tuna, then pipe a rosette of yolk on top. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a spoon, but it won’t be as pretty.) Garnish the top with some wasabi tobbiko.
Makes 12 deviled eggs.
157 W 47th St
New York, NY 10036