Talk to any successful chef and he (or she) will tell you that opening a restaurant takes grit and guts. Expect to drop substantial cash, kill your social life, and put an end to luxuries like sleep and days off. To top it off, you must enter the culinary battlefield knowing most restaurants won't make it past their first year.
When Adrianne Calvo opened Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar at age 22, many thought she couldn't check a single box off that list. She garnered attention young, had little experience, and was opening an eatery in West Kendall. Pretty ballsy considering Kendall is where dreams go to die.
Fast forward six years. Calvo is hosting a celebration tonight (Thursday) commemorating not just surviving, but thriving. She's serving a six-course, prix-fixe dinner ($75) beginning at 7pm tonight. The meal includes some of her favorite dishes served at the restaurant and includes complimentary cocktails courtesy of Diplomático Rum.
New Times: Having accomplished so much at such a young age came with a big spotlight. How has that early attention molded you as a chef?
Adrianne Calvo: I don't believe the attention molded me as a chef. It definitely motivated me to work twice as hard as any other chef. Because of the fact that I opened Chef Adrianne's when I was 22 years old, and being a woman, I had to prove myself over and over for a very long time. Many times, I was simply shut down for my age or for having no experience in owning or operating a restaurant. That only lit my fire even more.
On your website, your bio states that you have "influenced the culinary community as well as the way people experience fine dining." Can you elaborate on that?
I'm not a scientist. I'm not conducting science experiments on people's palettes. I don't use the newest, trendiest ingredients out there. I'm not situated in a cool area. There's a distinct group-thinking in the world of gastronomy. I like to think I'm a true independent who does not necessarily go with mainstream fashion.
While I admire the genius in Barcelona who discovered "foam", you won't find foam on any of my dishes. There's something utterly beautiful about an excellently braised meat, that comes out rich, lustrous, with an intoxicating aroma of wine, garlic, and herbs. It's fork tender, nurturing, satisfying: it's what cooking is all about. In addition, 5 years ago, I decided to blindfold my guests once a month (Dark Dining) in hopes of providing a sensual dining experience that would unforgettable. One with no bias, no prejudices, you'd give anything a shot because you don't know what's coming. It's been an amazing 5 years of doing it in the dark.
What dining trend has you excited?
None. I get excited to try restaurants of chefs I admire. The French Laundry, Animal, Babbo, Bazaar, etc.
Which one has to end?
Chefs pretending to be scientists. I think chefs need to come back to basics and remember what culinary arts is all about, what Escoffier, James Beard, and Julia Child were all in love with.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
To be able to use my craft of cooking to create a holiday feast at St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital every December. Nothing compares to that feeling.
How has Chef Adrianne's grown over the last six years?
Restaurants are a lot like children, fun to conceive, challenging to bring into the world, they can reward you with triumph and hardship over the years. As a restaurant owner/parent, you expose it to the best possible education, you instill non-negotiable family values and character, that will allow it to withstand to harsh criticism and adversity. After enough years have passed, and you've done your best, your reward is beautiful, healthy, independent, adult with a distinctive stamp and style. That is Chef Adrianne's now after six years.
Opening of my next few restaurant concepts.
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- Crispy Gouda with Raspberry Reduction
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Sweet Corn Tamalito and Grilled Shrimp with Scallion and Chipotle
- Blue Fin Tuna and Ponzu Aioli, with shaved cucumber, jalapeno, and micro cilantro
- 24-hour braised prime short rib and a butter poached Australian lobster tail, with potatoes robouchon and crispy kale.
- Dark chocolate Nutella croissant bread pudding a la mode.