Every year, thousands of young cooks spill out of the doors of their respective cooking institutions and barrel head first into the world of the restaurant. With wild-eyed enthusiasm, semi-sharp knives, and dumb luck many of these cooks land in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the country; determined to rise through the ranks and eventually become the bad ass, visionary, award winning chef that they all think they are deep down inside. The truth is that there a lot fewer Executive Chefs than culinary school graduates and only so much bad ass to go around. Anyone who has spent even one night working in a restaurant kitchen knows that isn’t a job that’s meant to last forever, but the good news is there is life after line cook. Adin Langille, Chef/Owner of Bowl and Blade in Brooklyn, NY is proof of that. Although he is one of the few that did get to hear “Oui, Chef” in his career, he’s found a way to use his time as a cook in some of the best kitchens in the country to create a concept that brings fine dining to the people in the most universal and accessible eating vessel….the humble bowl.
The Chef’s Connection: So tell me really quick what is the Bowl and Blade?
Adin Langille: So Bowl and Blade is a quick service concept that we just opened in Brooklyn, and we’re really focusing on bringing fine dining techniques, and vegetables and produce and fresh proteins to the general public, in a bowl format.
TCC: What would you say makes Bowl and Blade stand out from other causal quick serve restaurants in New York City?
AL: I think our product sourcing and our techniques. Also our flavor profiles. We’re layering our flavors, and I’m using a lot of the sauce work that I learned in fine dining and adjusted for the general public
TCC: So, what was your first food job?
AL: I started washing dishes when I was 14. And then i got moved to prep cook and then up to fry cook and just kept moving up from there.
TCC: And where have you cooked between then and now?
AL: Well I did two years at Johnson and Wales, and then after that I went down to Miami and worked there for a couple of years under Chef Pascal Oudin, and then I came to New York and worked for Alain Ducasse at Adour, I also worked for Michael White at Marea, then I worked at Junoon for a long time and eventually ended up running that kitchen. After that I was executive Chef for David Burke at David Burke’s Fabrick and that branched into getting into owning instead of just being a Chef.
TCC: What was the hardest thing for you to learn as a young line cook?
AL: As a young line cook, for me, I always wanted to run around and do everything really fast. It was to try and learn to slow down and focus on one project at a time and get it completed before you start the next one.
TCC: Yes, that can be a very difficult lesson and it’s one I’m learning now, myself. What made you want to do the switch from fine dining to owning your own place?
AL: I’ve been working, running other people’s restaurant for years and I worked my way up to Executive Chef so naturally I think the next step would be to start my own place and branch out like that.
TCC: During your time as a cook, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
AL: I think when i was down in mexico i was eating the chapulines, the fried grasshoppers, with mezcal and that was just really awesome, I enjoyed it alot. A lot of people find that taboo but i just found it delicious.
TCC: So what did they taste like?
AL: It was just really crispy, I was just munching on those and it goes really well with the mezcal and a little chili salt on there, it’s just awesome.
TCC: Well that is very adventurous of you, which reminds me of a question, It’s one of my favorites that I ask everyone I interview: What is your deepest darkest secret? It could be food related or not and preferably something you wouldnt mind your mother hearing.
AL: I like to mix ketchup and mayonnaise and put it on almost everything. Which i know is not a very great thing to do coming from fine dining but pretty much anything fried or american style food I like to put ketchup and mayonnaise on it.
TCC: Oh that’s not that bad! In that case, I think we share a deep dark secret.
TCC: How do you deal with the stress that comes with opening a restaurant
AL: I’ve got a little smoker behind my garden apartment in queens and I like to smoke a big rack of beef short rib or some pork and having a really nice cigar and have a beer. That’s my time.
TCC: So to get away from cooking you go home and you cook?
AL: Well yeah i guess so
TCC: Which bowl is your favorite?
AL: That really depends because our menu is so diverse, you can do anything from a salad, to a grain bowl to poke but the two I find myself eating most are the Maui Style, traditional style poke, and the other is the Falafel Waffle. I snack on that alot. With the east medi garnish and the tahini sauce, it’s really awesome.
TCC: I saw that one, it looked very intriguing, I have to try it. What is your current, or consistent ingredient obsession?
AL: Well right now I’m working on a lot of different fresh fruit and different yogurts and sorbets for the soft serve machine. That’s what I’ve been obsessing about, doing cold infusions of different fresh fruit purees that we make in house, and adjusting the stabilizers and everything to get it to come out to a really nice consistency. That’s been my current obsession. The one that came out best so far was the mango basil. We cold infuse fresh mango puree with basil overnight and it came out incredible.
TCC: That sounds delicious and it actually is delicious. I tried it so I would know. So do you consider yourself a chef first of a business owner first?
AL: Well that’s been something that’s been an interesting challenge for me opening my first spot. I’m used to just focusing in on the kitchen and having other people take care of the front of the house and the POS systems and stuff like that so having to think more globally while maintaining consistency of quality in the kitchen has been an interesting adjustment for me. I think it’s good to do it on a small scale like this before we branch out into anything larger that a quick service because you kinda have to wear both hats and finding that balance has been challenging.
TCC: Do you want to expand Bowl and Blade?
AL: Yes! We do. We opened in an outer borough because we wanted to get all of our systems in check and get all of our recipes ironed out but we’re definitely looking for expansion into midtown or the financial district in the next few years.
TCC: That’s not a bad move at all. So what’s next for you?
AL: Next is just working to get this concept rolling, get a couple locations going and then evaluate from there. We really want to have a smooth expansion. We’ve only been open for seven weeks now so we’re always trying to make thing better, cleaner, smoother, and more efficient and then maintain things that we’ve already made efficient.
TCC: Well that’s exciting, and I look forward to what you come up with next, and I will definitely be back to try your creations!