2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Adam Evans of JCT. Kitchen & Bar

2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Adam Evans of JCT. Kitchen & Bar
June 2012

Growing up in Alabama—where seafood is the “bread and butter” of any respectable diet—Adam Evans spent his childhood days fishing in local lakes and rivers with his family. But it wasn’t until he landed his first job in a kitchen, as chef’s apprentice at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama, that he began to understand how to turn his catch into culinary delights.

After leaving Alabama, Evans headed to New Orleans (another seafood haven) to Baco, where he focused on learning technique, speed, and consistency. He then landed at La Petite Grocery in 2004, when the restaurant earned a four-bean review in the Times-Picayune. In May 2005, Evans continued to move his career forward, and up, heading north to New York City, where he became sous chef at Craft. During this time he managed the à la carte kitchen, oversaw private parties, and organized high-profile functions that Tom Colicchio hosted outside the restaurant. The Manhattan location soon sent Evans to open Craftbar in Atlanta in the role of chef de cuisine, which allowed him to establish a menu highlighting local, Southern cuisine. During Evans’ tenure, the restaurant received a four-star review from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was named “Best New Restaurant” by Atlanta Magazine.

Evans next teamed up with local favorite, 2007 Rising Star Chef Ford Fry, at JCT. Kitchen & Bar. And in spring 2011, he was promoted to open Fry’s highly anticipated seafood eatery, The Optimist. In addition to a hands-on approach (although he won’t be catching the fish himself, he’ll be choosing the catch brought in to The Optimist’s kitchen), Evans will take the lead in creating seasonal, wood-grilled offerings for the menu. And judging by the buzz surrounding the restaurant’s opening, he’ll be putting those seasoned fish prep skills to serious use, we’re sure.

Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Adam Evans

Katherine Sacks: How did you get interested in cooking?
Adam Evans: I grew up loving cooking. A girlfriend’s father was the GM of a resort in South Alabama, and I worked for him. He was first real chef that taught me; he kind of got me a job in the kitchen and he showed me the ropes, got me on track, and spent a lot of time working with me. Then he sent me to New Orleans. I thought I knew how to cook going to New York and then figured out I didn't know anything.

KS: What is your style as a chef?
AE: I think cooking all together is shooting from the hip—a little bit of planning, but it’s all kind of in the moment when stuff comes in that inspires me. It’s when practice meets opportunity, that’s what all my training is. And I love simple American flavors.

KS: What is your proudest moment?
AE: There are a lot of rewarding moments. The proudest moments for me are the big events, the big deadlines that come up and executing them and doing it well. A night that’s really busy and everyone has fun—it’s why we all do it. I'm also really proud of my new restaurant and being able to open that.

KS: Tell us about the new place. What is the concept behind The Optimist?
AE: The Optimist is a wood-grilled seafood house and oyster bar. It’s pretty much all seafood, but we'll have some land favorites too.

KS: What has been the hardest things you’ve had to do in your career?
AE: : I’ve done a lot of challenging events. Tom [Colicchio] had a lot of events on Long Island. One time it was an event with 5,000 people. Lionel Richie flew out.

KS: If you weren’t’ a chef, what would you be doing?
AE: I would [work in] some sort of secret service espionage, I love that kind of stuff. That’s something that would never happen, but how cool would that be, to have a life but not be able to talk about it? I like the idea of bettering the country—or something.

KS: And where will we find you in five years?
AE: Hopefully opening up multiple oyster bars with Ford. The plan is to expand the concept.