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INTERVIEW: Food Network Chef Adam Gertler Joins Taste Of Abbot Kinney

Tanaya Ghosh |
October 18, 2012 | 7:50 p.m. PDT

Food Editor

Jin Patisserie's delectable desserts in the VIP tasting area (Tanaya Ghosh / Neon Tommy)
Jin Patisserie's delectable desserts in the VIP tasting area (Tanaya Ghosh / Neon Tommy)
Taste of Abbot Kinney, held this past weekend on the famous street in Venice, CA had the fun of a scavenger hunt and the satisfaction of good food rolled into one yearly event.

The best part was that the walking food tour, in which guests were given a map of participating restaurants and bars, was for a good cause. With tickets selling at $60 for the walking tour and $100 for an additional VIP tasting area, the proceeds benefitted Inside Out Community Arts.

Restaurants along Abbot Kinney including Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Abbot's Pizza, Casa Linda, and Local 1205 participated by giving out select small samples to map-wielding guests.

One of many culinary highlights that evening included Jin Patisserie's Spring Bouquet, a square of meringue filled with passionfruit cream, fresh strawnberries and mangoes. Another of its outstanding desserts was the Lapsang Souchong, a 65% dark chocolate mousse infused with a smoky Lapsang Souchong tea, layered with sponge cake and topped with salted candied hazelnuts to round out the flavors of the rich shot glass-sized masterpiece.

We also caught up with easygoing and amicable celebrity chef Adam Gertler, Food Network star and host of Taste of Abbot Kinney to learn more about the event and about the man beyond the television screen:


T.G: How did you start Gertler's Kitchen with your brother?

AG: We had the idea to start something here in SoCal. It's a dream of both of ours to have a restaurant again. We love entertaining and cooking for people. We've both worked in the biz all our lives and we work well together.

What led you to get involved with Taste of Abbot Kinney?

I grew up doing theater. It was the only thing I did well and it made me feel special through the awkward years. I'm so behind the mission of Inside Out Community Arts, the organization supported by Taste Of Abbot Kinney. The event is an "eat crawl" down one of SoCal's most famous blocks. Many of the Abbot Kinney restaurants participate by providing tastes of food, beverages or both. I hosted the event last year and I'm very humbled to be asked to host again.

How will you develop the menu?

Our menu will feature a rotating offering of different handmade wursts as well as other non-sausage dishes. Inspiration comes from the Jewish deli we grew up with, barbecue joints, and a lot of time spent in New Orleans, my favorite city for eating.

Why sausages?

I love food craft. I especially love foods that are cured and smoked. I've been passionate about barbecue since college and I've always loved the kind of sausage they make in Texas. Learning to make wurst has been something I've worked on for the past 3 years.

You've said that you have plans to open a restaurant here in Southern California. Considering you're from the East Coast, why not stay in Philadelphia or even other parts of the East Coast?

This is where I've been for 5 years. I think SoCal patrons are people who appreciate quality food and care about where their food comes from. That's where I would want to be. I'm not interested in making money by selling a low quality product. It probably makes me a poor businessman but a good cook.

You've been doing pop-ups at places such as TRiP Santa Monica, where you collaborate to hold events with names like Burlesque and Brats -- do tell us more.

We've been doing pop-ups, or showing up and selling food at different locations. TRiP is an incredible music venue and beer (and) wine bar that doesn't focus on food. We've been able to show up and set up a mini restaurant in the back on many occasions. On the first Wednesday of every month we show up and sell our food while TRiP features a burlesque show. Hence, burlesque and Brats. Also see Dames and Dogs, Links and Ladies, et cetera.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with? Sausage-related ingredients are off the table on this one!

My favorite ingredient to work with (besides hickory smoke) is beef naval plate. Its the cut used to make real pastrami. I love a cut of meat that is really tough but through low and slow cooking can be transformed into something soft, unctuous and tender.

What is your least favorite ingredient to work with?

My least favorite ingredient is frozen vegetables. I think the reason I didn't like veggies as a kid is that I never had fresh vegetables. It's nearly impossible to make a frozen green vegetable taste good I think. If you can, you're a better chef than I (am).

What is your favorite meal that you didn't cook yourself?

Even though I make good barbecue I still love a great barbecue meal prepared by a real pit master.

Do you have a favorite dessert? 

It's a tie between banana cream pie and ice cream.

Favorite cocktail?

It's a tie between a Bloody Mary and a margarita.

With all the recent food trends, what is your take on molecular gastronomy? Sustainability?

I have complete admiration and respect for the people who practice molecular gastronomy. It's beyond my comprehension. Having said that, I don't crave "açaí berry caviar over compressed kale steak." I think the classics will remain and just improve. A burger is a burger but man, are there some good burgers now.

What is the next food trend that you think will take off?

The globalization of food will continue. As people are exposed to different ethnic foods, the demand will increase for different food options. It's not just Chinese or Italian anymore. 

What do you think of the increased awareness surrounding sustainability as of late?

I hope and believe that the desire for more sustainable foods continues. I'd like to see much more consumption on the local level. I believe that by spending a bit more on quality food we will be healthier and need to spend less on health care. So much illness is preventable by a having a good diet and exercising regularly. There needs to be a major shift in where our priorities are with regard to food. People in medical crises should be able to have the support from this country that they need regardless of their bank account. People who could prevent illness by being better informed about their diet and eating better should do so or pay for their own healthcare. Sorry, that's just how I feel.

How do you stay fit while work often requires you to eat so much good food so often?

I appreciate good food and it's worth working for something that's worth it. I run, do p90x and yoga. I was heavy as a child. I attended Weight Watchers around 6th grade. It was tough being taller. I (also) discovered I like girls, discovered I really like girls and that was a good motivating factor. 

As host of "Kid in a Candy Store" and "Will Work for Food," how much of a say do you get on what foods and restaurants to feature in each episode as opposed to when you're on shows like "Best Thing I Ever Ate?"

Not much. I pick the spots when I do "Best Thing Ate," but on the other shows it's usually the production company and the network that decide.

How did you decide you wanted to do "Next Food Network Star" and what made you stand out to the judges week after week to make it to the finals?

I just thought it would be good exposure. I did not expect to do well because I didn't think I had enough culinary experience at the time. I tried to stand out by doing something memorable each week. If I screwed up my food, I tried to own it and not blame anyone else. Passing the blame in those shows always makes people look petty. 

What's the biggest difference between what we see on television and what you actually experienced while taping?

The biggest difference between the reality show and the reality of the show is that the show tapes quickly. There's not a week between challenges as it appears on the show. You're constantly on edge and you have no idea what or who's coming next. I had fun though. The performer side of me just embraced the ridiculousness of the situation. It's not medicine or war, it's just a food reality show so why not have fun?

You hosted "Kid in a Candy Store." Be honest-- do you really love candy and sweets that much?

I'm actually much more of a savory guy. I was honored to be asked to host a show for Food Network but I never thought I'd be doing a sweets show. I like chocolate. I love ice cream and custards. Vanilla, coconut, pudding pies with graham cracker or flaky pastry crusts are also favorites of mine. I don't eat sweets every day. I see sweets as an indulgence, a reward or a celebratory treat.

Is your job as a Food Network star and chef really just as awesome as we think it is?

It's awesome when you're doing stuff and busy. Really awesome. Being recognized all over the country in places you've never been to before never gets old. I'm associated with food so I'm usually recognized around food places which is great because those are my favorite places.

Do you have a favorite chef?

I don't have one favorite chef. I used to work as a server in one of Jose Garces' restaurants and I think his food is incredible. Tons of flavor, the guy's a beast. I love New Orleans food too, so I love the greats like Paul Prudhomme and Donald Link who owns Cochon and Butcher. (Thos are) Some of my favorite places to eat in the Bayou.

What advice can you give to young people interested in a food-related career?

Realize that the food business is a tough grind. Especially if you make sausage like me. If you're a cook or you want to be a chef, you'll probably work for a long time for little money and the hours are long and strange. I think everyone should work in one aspect of the food industry at least once in their life so they might have a greater appreciation of what goes into putting food on your plate.


Reach Tanaya Ghosh here or follow her on Twitter.



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