2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Adam Lambert of Ohio City Provisions

2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Adam Lambert of Ohio City Provisions
November 2016

Ohio City Provisions
3212 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44133



Cleveland native Adam Lambert began cooking as a teenager but really cut his teeth working for Michael Symon at Lola Bistro and Jonathan Sawyer at Bar Cento. In 2013, Lambert left Bar Cento to cut back on hours and focus on family. When he stepped away from the kitchen, a new professional calling began to ferment in his mind: he wanted to open a local, sustainable butcher shop with in-house artisan charcuterie. After taking on one more kitchen post as chef de cuisine at Black Pig, Lambert partnered with Fresh Fork Market’s Trevors Clatterbuck to begin planning what would become Ohio City Provisions. 

Lambert and Clatterbuck tied their business to Wholesome Valley Farms, a 200-plus acre polyculture farm in Holmes county. The farm will raise the multitude of heirloom pigs—Mangalista, Berkshire, Red Wattle, Tamworth, and Mulefoot—needed to stock the case at Ohio City Provisions, along with cows, heritage turkey, and chickens. As consulting chef at poutine and sausage concept, Banter, Lambert is already plying his skills on Wholesome Valley’s meats. And when their brick-and-mortar butcher shop opens in Ohio City this winter, Lambert and Clatterbuck will have built a responsible, Ohio proud business sure to elevate standards for meat and charcuterie in the region. 

Interview with Rust Belt Rising Star Artisan Adam Lambert of Ohio City Provisions

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Adam Lambert:
I needed a job, and I got hired at a place just south of Cleveland called Mountain Jack Steakhouse. It was fancy back then in ’96. I was a dishwasher there when I was 14. I did it after school, but now with child labor laws you can’t do it anymore. I would always stop by garde manger and help them. One day one of the cooks didn’t show up, so they called me onto the line. I was on the fryer. The next week I was on the line. I got my undergraduate degree in sociology. I cooked at hole in the wall restaurants. I finished school and was going to go into law enforcement, but your views change in college when you smoke a bunch of reefer. All hippied out, I went into social work, and that doesn’t pay shit. So I started cooking and decided to go to the best restaurants. I found Michael Symon. I went to Lola and then went with Jonathon Sawyer to Bar Cento. He showed me the ropes—what to do and what not to do. I’ve been sucked in ever since. I took over as executive chef of Bar Cento, and we were butchering whole animals. We had our own charcuterie room and did a lot of curing. Now, I have two kids and a wife, and at the time, I worked 90 to 110 hours a week, so I didn’t sleep at all. I got to a point with my second kid and decided to quit. The family thing wouldn’t work if I wasn’t ever there. But, I fell in love with butchery thing. I thought to myself, “Cleveland doesn’t have a badass butcher shop. There’s a void here and I know I can fill it.” So I wrote a business plan in like three hours.

SK: And you have your own farm?
We have our own farm about an hour away. It’s a 220 acre farm, with about 35 acres of produce. We have chickens, pigs, and cows.This concept is fun and super simple. We make sausage, poutine. The dairy we have on the farm is USDA inspected. We use all Guernsey cattle. It’s supposed to be healthier milk. Depending on the seasons and temperature, our cheese curds go from white to yellow. It’s all grass fed.

SK: What do you feed the livestock?
We have a feed mixture, organic corn and soy, cut in with some oats as our main. We use fresh barley, and we’re not trying to rely completely on corn. Once the [animal] fat renders it’s soft, and we’re trying produce a harder fat by switiching up feed to something heartier.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
We’re members of the Butcher’s Guild. They’re a super supportive network.

SK: What have you learned? Any adivce? 
There’s never a short day. The moment you think eveything is going well, a fence breaks down and 20 pigs let loose on farm. Things happend for a reason and be patient. We were supposed to open fall 2015. I’m much more prepared and comfortable as a business owner, and with the farm and everything evolving and the relationships and and bringing things together. It’s very stressful and I’m picking up side jobs here and there because I have a family to support.

SK: What's your five year plan?
I always try to push forward in food. I was fortunate enough to work with some great chefs that gave a fuck about local foods and pushed it. I got in the habit of buying what was available from farmers. There’s no writers block, stuff comes to you. If you buy from the right people you don’t have to do much.