I grew up in the food industry. Three generations of restaurant blood flows through my veins. I cannot seem to escape it. I’ve given up trying.
In my early years in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I lived in my mother’s restaurants. At first on an egg crate in the kitchen for punishment, snow days and when I was sick. Later, to stand by her side as a short-order cook (she is still the best I’ve ever seen – could do the work of three mere mortals). I continued as a waiter, cook and bartender through college, until I landed my first “real” job out of the family business. I wasn’t about to work in food, which I perceived as a blue-collar means to an end for my family. I wanted more.
In college I took an opportunity to go deeper into financial-aid and spend a year in Italy. This forever changed my view of the culinary arts. Food wasn’t a job there, it was a lifestyle. Everything centered around the table, and, it was done slowly with great care for the experience. Food is inextricable from family, culture and lifestyle in Italy. My mother’s speed at slinging hash wasn’t appreciated in the same way. Rather, the chef was praised for the time and care put into the food. It was clear that I could get used this this way of life.
My careers have taken me across the world many times over. In the 90′s I owned an upscale adventure travel firm, specializing in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific. I became a maven and an expert on the cuisines of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, India and Indonesia (Burma, Cambodia, Tibet, Bhutan also, but that’s a rant for another post). We offered culinary tours with notable chefs and cooking classes with humble local superstars. It was here that my epicurean passion began to grow into formidable zealotry. I had to be an expert for my clients. Who could blame me?
When 9/11 forever changed the travel industry, I decided to get out. People simply weren’t going abroad – for quite a while. We lost our shirts. In a survivalist scramble I started three businesses simultaneously, including a catering gig. While the catering immediately took off and kept me busy, my home technology business proved more lucrative with greater potential. My decision was bolstered by the birth of my son child and a bought-at-the-top-of-the-market Potrero Hill home.
Yet, food always beckons. I can spend hours discussing the intricacies of a gnocchi or the glory of adding lime to a noodle soup. I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and sustainability over the years and I’m not shy to evangelize. I’d rather stroll the streets of a farmer’s market and cook an all-day, multi-course feast for my friends above all else. I am passionate and, yes, zealous. My opinions are strong and my language is oft harsh, but I speak with sincerity and believe I have a foundation to support them.
The Zealot (Adam Zolot)