Interview with Chef Adam Schop of Nuela - New York, NY

September 2011

Emily Bell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Adam Schop: I was inspired at an early age by family gatherings and holidays cooking with my grandparents and mother.

EB: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
AS: Have no expectations for the first three to four years. Just be open to learning and practicing your craft.

EB: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary background?
AS: I don’t recommend culinary school. I hire cooks with or without culinary degrees. I do appreciate cooks that have the ability to fulfill their commitment, but usually chefs who have gone to cooking school don’t have that much of a difference in skill set.

EB: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
AS: I participate in many fundraisers and donate dinners to private residences.

EB: What steps are you taking to become a sustainable restaurant?
AS: We currently buy all sustainable fish. We purchase our chickens, rabbits, piglets, and ducks from local sources. We recycle, compost, and turn in our refuse oil for biodiesel.

EB: What ingredient do you feel is underappreciated?
AS: Common sense!

EB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
AS: Fifty percent of it is, if you put shit in an oven, you will take shit out of it. The rest is technique, discipline, empathy for your team, and consistency.

EB: What goes into creating a dish?
AS: I usually start with an ingredient or a concept that interests me. I will research the most simple form or beginning of my idea to develop a dish that is truthful and relevant to the restaurant I am cooking in.   

EB: What trends do you see emerging?
AS: Going back to the basics—cooking great ingredients well!

EB: How do you keep abreast of the latest trends?
AS: The Internet is the greatest resource the culinary world has ever had.

EB: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
AS: Remaining relevant to retain our core base, as well as attract new traffic.

EB: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
AS: Maintaining a healthy balance of work and my precious family—my wife Sara and my son Max.

EB: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?
AS: I wish that I had spent time cooking in Europe early in my career. 

EB: What are some of your favorite food-industry charities?
AS: SOS and Common Threads.

EB: Which person in history would you most like to cook for, and why?
AS: George Carlin. I admire him as an entertainer, as well as an individual with a perspective that I relate to.

EB: Which chef would you most like to cook for, and why?
AS: All the chefs that I have worked for and alongside in the past. We always have great time cooking and eating with each other.  It is most rewarding for me to exchange ideas with the folks who’ve been a major part of my career.

EB: What’s your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
AS: Having My “Arroz con Pato” being endorsed by The New York Times as one of the “Top 10 Dishes” in New York for 2010.

EB: What does success mean for you?
AS: Being able to honestly believe you achieve your goals on a daily or weekly basis.

EB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AS: Hopefully able to lead and inspire several teams in multiple restaurants.

EB: If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you’d be doing?
AS: Probably a doctor.

EB: What would be your last meal?
AS: Caesar salad, two dozen Wellfleet oysters with lemon and Tabasco, prime rib, french fries, and crème brûlée.